U.S. Immigration Policy on the Table at the WTO

By Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies, November 30, 2005

How did immigration wind up on the table at the WTO? Under the global
trade body’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), governments
can regulate the supply of services performed by foreigners. The
technical term for this type of service trade is Mode 4. Thus far, the
types of visas being discussed are those for executives and highly
skilled professionals, such as Indian software engineers who have come
to work in the Silicon Valley and other high-tech hubs in the United
States . Some developing countries are pushing for the Mode 4 talks to
cover less-skilled workers as well.

The wrangling over visas is just one more example of the WTO’s mission
creep. Global trade rules are no longer aimed merely at eliminating
tariffs on goods that cross borders. The ultimate goal of GATS, for
example, is to lift barriers to all manner of services by curbing
national and local government controls on the entry of global banks,
insurance companies, and other service providers into each country’s
markets. Other WTO rules limit government efforts to offer affordable
generic medicines or to protect native plants and traditional
handicrafts from being patented for profit by global businesses. And
any domestic law, including public interest regulations, can be
challenged under WTO rules as “an unfair barrier to trade.”

Leave a Comment

Log in