Advancing a Global Agenda on Trade and Migration

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4 July 2018
Geneva, Switzerland

Building on the first Forum on Migration, Trade and the Global Economy, ICTSD and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) organised a workshop with the aim of deepening understanding of the relationship between trade and migration, and articulating a strategy for advancing a global agenda on this issue. The event brought together international experts from the fields of trade, migration, and economics, as well as representatives of international organisations and relevant actors in the diplomatic community based in Geneva.

Participants were introduced to a conceptual framework for migration which places the socio-economic benefits of migration as key determinants of policy and its implementation. While in recent years migration has been mainly dealt with from a security point of view, it was suggested that the concept of common concern of humankind is suitable principle to frame international cooperation and domestic obligations in the field of migration and thus provide a positive narrative.

Furthermore, the dialogue sought to link the discussion with the Sustainable Development Goals and particularly goals 8, 9, 10, 12, 17. While migration and trade flows are very different, there are ways to enhance the links between the two by engaging stakeholders working in both policy domains in the identification of common areas and issues; policy discussion and elaboration; joint advocacy; fostering network growth; and enhancing individual capacity.

From the trade policy side, the discussions sought to identify the place of migration in World Trade Organisation agreements and regional trade agreements. The migration-trade nexus was examined from an economic perspective and it was emphasised that the development of migration policies should be conducted in an integrated manner. The dialogue also examined the link between migration and trade from a business perspective with participants noting the need for greater cooperation between business and government for the elaboration of migration policies.

Discussions further drew on the role of migration with regards to trade in services, linkages to trade facilitation, the financial sector, investment, entrepreneurship, the transfer of technology, and skills. They highlighted the complex nature of the relationship between trade and migration, which varies according to different types of migration flows, geographic region, and the trade issue. Finally, participants addressed the trade-migration-nexus in the context of the Global Compact for Migration, in which a multilayer and multi-sectoral understanding and approach needs to be considered for effective linkages and policies.

Main takeaways

  • The narrative around international migration must shift from one of crisis to one of opportunity and be rooted in facts.
  • This calls for the adoption of cooperative approaches and the identification of reciprocal interests including through greater dialogue and sharing of information between the trade and migration epistemic communities. This dialogue should focus on clearly identifying issues for which a solution is sought.
  • There is a need to understand the interaction between trade and migration, in a broader holistic sense, beyond the immediate confines of trade agreements. An examination of the international economic policy and law and how it relates to the trade and migration nexus would be useful in this regard.  
  • It was also suggested, through empirical evidence, that in the relationship between trade and migration, the latter appears to drive the former. This assertion has implications for policies that seek to shape the trade and migration linkage.  
  • It is essential to identify the problems for which the world is seeking solutions, so that any proposed work to craft policy reform in the field of migration and trade is specific and meaningful. These problems include: need for a common terminology, better data, shaping policies that enhance the economic contributions of migrants to their home and host countries, capacity building and training for migrants; integrating migrants and refugees into services economies; extending the impact assessment of migration to trade agreement; foreign investment regulation in the context of employment of foreigners.
  • There is a need to build on the  Global Compact on Migration and the New York Declaration to consider specific interventions that will reinforce the positive linkages between migration and trade.

The event built on the first high-level Forum on Migration, Trade and the Global Economy organised by ICTSD in partnership with IOM and Fundación Foro del Sur in Buenos Aires in December 2017.

A press release issued following the Geneva workshop is available here.

Attendance was by invitation only.


Thomas Cottier is Professor emeritus of European and International Economic Law at the University of Bern, a senior research fellow at the World Trade Institute, and adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He was the founder and managing director of the World Trade Institute from 1999-2015 and SNF National Centre of Competence NCCR on International Trade Regulation, and before the Deputy Director General of the Swiss Intellectual Property Office. He served on the Swiss negotiating team of the Uruguay Round and on EFTA-EU EEA negotiations. He has been a member and chair of numerous GATT and WTO panels. He has published widely in international economic law and currently directs a research programme developing the doctrine of common concern of human kind. 

Jaime de Melo, Emeritus professor at the University of Geneva, and scientific director at Fondation pour les études et recherches sur le développement international (FERDI), an invited professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bologna Center, and a non-resident scholar at Brookings. He worked at USAID from 1972 to 1976, taught at Georgetown University from 1976-80 and at the University of Geneva from 1993-2012. From 1980 to 1993, he held various positions in the research Department at the World Bank. He serves on several editorial boards and was editor-in-chief of the World Bank Economic Review, 2005-2010.

Marion Panizzon, Ph.D. is a lecturer in law at the University of Bern and senior researcher at the National Center for Competence in Research, nccr-on the move. She has published on trade, migration and development, including the Palgrave Handbook of Labor Migration (2015) with Elisa Fornalè and most recently, The External Faces of EU External Migration Law and Policy (2018) Brill Publishing with Sergio Carrera, Leonhard den Hertog and Dora Kostakopoulos.

Deepali Fernandes is Senior Migration and Economic Development Specialist, IOM. She completed her BA and LLB in India, and her LLM in London (SOAS) and is currently working on her PhD (Finance and Trade). Deepali worked as an International trade consultant with WTO, UNDP and SADC, as Economics Affairs Officer with UNCTAD for 8 years and in private practice in India and the UK. Deepali was a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge and the Beijing University of International Business and Economics, and a guest lecturer at IMD Business School, Lausanne and Government Law College, Mumbai. She has published in several UN publications and international journals. Most recent publications are: India and the Mega regionals (Forbes), SADC Report on Construction, Engineering and Architecture, Trade and Regulatory Issues of Landlocked Developing Countries: Case of India-Nepal and China- Mongolia.


Dr. Michaella Vanore is a research fellow at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, where she has worked for the past eight years as a researcher/lecturer on migration and development. Michaella has provided research to bodies such as the European Commission, IOM, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, OxfamNovib, UNICEF (Iran, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Viet Nam), and UNDEF. Within these projects, Michaella has addressed topics such as defining and analyzing multidimensional poverty among migrant children, assessing the consequences of family-member migration for those who remain in the home country, diaspora engagement, and ways of fostering the linkages between migration and trade

Dr Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz is an economist, thought leader and expert on data-driven policy making, competitiveness, innovation and global risks. She led the World Economic Forum’s economics portfolio and global risks work and worked with governments and business to define high growth strategies using indicators, analysis and insight, and through multi-stakeholder processes. She is lead author or editor of a number of globally recognized benchmarking and insight reports, including The Global Competitiveness Report and the Global Risks Report series. For over a decade, she studied the economic development of the Middle East and North Africa Region, Eastern Europe and CIS and developed joint high impact work with OECD, WB and EBRD. Margareta designed the economics sessions of the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos and successfully developed, fundraised and implemented large-scale trade development projects in Central and Eastern Europe at the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO. She is a frequent public speaker, international media commentator and facilitator.

Ms. Liping Zhang has been working in the areas of international trade, international trading system and trade negotiations since 1988 when she joined the Ministry of Commerce in China. Her experiences include participation in the negotiations of China's membership in the GATT and later in the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as her posting in the Chinese Mission to the WTO between 2002 and September 2009 as Counsellor and Chief of Services and Accessions. She was also member of the WTO Textile Monitoring Body after China's accession to the WTO. Her previous career in the China Ministry of Commerce featured with her progression of being the Deputy Director of the Goods Division in 1997, Director of the Services Division in 2001, and one of the Deputy Director-Generals in 2007. In October 2009, Ms. Zhang joined the Trade Division of UNCTAD, working on trade negotiations and commercial diplomacy ranging from trade in goods to trade in services.

Ms. Alina Narusova-Schmitz is a Senior Migration Policy Officer working on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at the Office of the Director General at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Ms. Narusova-Schmitz has been with IOM since 2004 and worked on designing, conceptualizing and implementing migration policy. Her areas of focus include migration policy and governance, international cooperation on migration, and cross-cutting areas such as migration and development, migration and health, migration and trade, and climate change, environment and migration. She holds degrees in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, as well as in Economics and in International Relations



Established in 1951, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. With 166 member states, a further 8 states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.