Migration, Free Trade and Regional Integration in North America

Trade liberalisation is necessary but not sufficient to provide the conditions under which migration flows are significantly reduced. Co-ordinated measures must therefore be undertaken to promote technological catch-up, the development of physical infrastructure and investment in human capital. Against a background of sustained development accompanied by significant employment creation, the incentive to emigrate could decline.

This publication explores the links between trade liberalisation and migration movements in North America and discusses the issue of whether the free circulation of persons accompany the successive stages of regional economic integration or whether it is an important objective to be achieved only once economic convergence has reached a sufficiently high level. The authors conclude that restrictions on movement are likely to continue into the future and that the lack of free movement does not constitute an obstacle to regional economic integration. Within this context, the need for balanced migration policies which take account of concerns about the economic consequences and social welfare of both sending and receiving countries will remain on the agenda for the foreseeable future.