This paper analyses why the temporary movement of service providers, as liberalized by the WTO in the so-called mode 4 of GATS, lacks potential for managing labor migration. We find instead that international economic migration is increasingly steered by the vertical interplay of migration-related agreements at three levels: the multilateral opening of labor markets in GATS mode 4 and its replicas at regional level, the economic partnership agreements (EPA), the EU mobility partnerships and the bilateral migration management agreements. The latter have moved from the “old” guestworker agreements to second generation templates, which present the most comprehensive regulation of migration currently available in treaty law. This complex treaty landscape on migration is split horizontally along a skill divide: non-trade, bilateral migration agreements are channels for recruiting low-skilled migrants, while trade agreements, including GATS mode 4 tend to be high-skill biased.
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