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Services Trade Liberalization and Labor Migration Policies in ASEAN: Towards the ASEAN Economic Community

Post-event Statement

How can the ASEAN community best consolidate and harmonize commitments to services trade liberalization and labor migration policies to meet regional economic integration goals, including the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015? What are the opportunities, challenges and ways forward?

The Asian Development Bank Institute, the International Organization for Migration and Chulalongkorn University sponsored the Sub-regional Conference on Services Trade Liberalization and Labor Migration Policies: Towards ASEAN Economic Community in Bangkok, Thailand, from 23-26 September 2008, with the aim to address such timely questions. More than 30 government officials, ASEAN Secretariat representatives, experts, and academics participated in the conference.

Expert presentations provided an overview of the interconnection between trade in services and the movement of people in the ASEAN community, and highlighted provisions for migration in WTO General Agreements on Trade in Services. Participants discussed ASEAN mechanisms towards free trade in services and related migration issues.

A section of the conference was dedicated to opportunities and challenges related to services trade liberalization and labor migration policies in ASEAN with a focus on remittances, health vulnerabilities of labor migrants, trade and migration statistical issues, qualifications recognition, and the impacts of brain drain/brain gain on national and regional economic development. The issue of agricultural trade as a safety net to address excessive national labor supply and subsequent migration also received attention.

Specific experiences with services trade liberalization and the concurrent movement of people were shared through country presentations. Country representatives discussed national commitments to services trade liberalization, as well as labor migration management challenges with a focus on national legislations and regional cooperation mechanisms, pre-departure training, recruitment processes, health vulnerabilities, labor rights and reintegration issues.

Overall, the sub-regional conference benefited greatly from open and dynamic discussions. Both sending and receiving countries emphasized the need to strengthen regional cooperation in labor migration management to meet national and regional economic development and integration objectives, and to ensure labor migrants' rights throughout the migration process. Participants stressed the usefulness of the sub-regional conference in providing a platform for information exchange and timely discussions.

Read the conference proceedings.

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The Objectives of the regional conference are to:

  1. Provide a platform to exchange views among high level senior policy makers in ASEAN member countries on current flows and trends, challenges and opportunities of cross-border labor migration, migration management, policies and practices within Southeast Asia within the context of services trade liberalization and an emphasis on GATS Mode 4,
  2. Introduce and promote the adoption of best practices on cross-border labor migration policies and management in ASEAN,
  3. Explore practical ways to address challenges to services trade liberalization, particularly labor migration policies that facilitate free flow of services under the ASEAN Economic Community.

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  1. Better understanding of the relationship between labor migration policies, services trade liberalization and regional economic integration
  2. Sharing of experience and networking among the participants and with experts/speakers
  3. Adoption of best practices in labor migration management
  4. Executive Summary/Conference Proceedings
  5. Policy recommendations on how to make migration policies more supportive of intra-regional services trade.

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Expected attendees are government officials from ten ASEAN countries who are directly involved in managing cross-border labor migration issues. Other public and private sector representatives may also be invited to participate in the workshop as resource persons/speakers.

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English (no interpretation would be provided)

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ADBI, International Organization for Migration and Chulalongkorn University are jointly organizing the workshop. Participants are expected to actively participate in the seminar and discussions. These include sharing of country experiences and practices, and making a country presentation.

Download this Book [ PDF 413.7KB| 32 pages ].

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© 2015 Asian Development Bank Institute.