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Free trade, free movement of capital, free movement of labour?

  1. Jan 25, 2004 #1


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    If we all want the people of the world to have a better standard of living - though we'll argue about what this actually means - international free trade is certainly one of the most effective and efficient means of achieving our goal (anti-globalisation folk: please start another thread of your own; I'll happily contribute to it. In this thread I want to examine a different issue).

    International free movement of capital is another means by which we can all become richer, live longer and healthier lives, etc. A quick note on what this means, in case readers aren't clear: you can buy and sell shares in companies in countries where you are not a citizen (or do not reside); you can acquire ('take-over') companies in other countries, or sell your company to a person or group from another country; etc. The fact that China, still ruled by a party which espouses communism, has embraced not only capitalism, but also the idea of foreign ownership of at least some of its SOEs (State Owned Enterprises), and of direct foreign investment, is an indication of how widely accepted the concept is, as a means of fostering economic growth.

    (In both international free trade and international free movement of capital there are important conditions and caveats. For example, health and safety; sectors under full government control (e.g. defence); culture and the media; international rules and mediation; IPR.)

    What about labour? How important is it for there to be free international movement of labour? In the EU, any citizen of the 15 members (soon to be 25) has a right to work in any other country in the EU. Pres Bush recently announced an 'immigration' initiative which is primarily about the free international movement of labour (well, mostly Mexicans and others from Central America). How important a contribution to the general betterment of life for all on this planet is free international movement of labour?

    In another thread, GENERIE wrote: "The dollar’s value is ultimately backed by the American worker, second to none." This seems to imply that 'American workers' are better than the workers in any other country. How do PF members feel about this assertion (yes, I could be grossly misrepresenting GENERIE's pov)? One reason often given for the need for liberal regulations on the international movement of labour, especially into developed economies, is that the locals don't want to do the jobs which others are only too happy to do. Examples given include seasonal agricultural work, dirty and dangerous jobs (e.g. janitors, construction workers), low paid work (e.g. housekeepers, nannies). In your country, are citizens generally unwilling to take such work? How happy are you that non-citizens may be very happy to do such?
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