Sri Lanka trade talks mull market access for migrant labour

Chandi Dharmaratne

June 21, 2010 (LBO) – Opening up labour markets in developed countries for migrant workers from South Asian countries like Sri Lanka is of critical importance for the region at world trade talks, an economist said. Many South Asians are working abroad in construction, nursing and health care, and in personal care as domestic assistants.

Trade in services through Mode 4 and remittances which result from it are very significant for balance of payments and poverty mitigation, De Mel said.

Therefore, the primary interest of South Asian nations is in the liberalization of Mode 4. However, Mode 4 is the most protected of all modes in the GATS framework, particularly in the low skilled area, which accounts for the bulk of South Asian migrant labour, where very few commitments have been made.

While it is important to secure access for workers with low skills, it is also important to secure higher skill level liberalization in the longer term to move up the value chain.

A critical need for the region was to secure the elimination of the economic needs testing which is used as a protective mechanism by many countries, De Mel also said. Remittances sent by migrant labour are important for almost