The Need for a Bilateral Labor Agreement Between the US and Mexico, and the Responsibility for Leadership

December 04, 2017

From his keynote speech in Mexico City, Michael Clemens writes:

Mexico and the United States need a bilateral agreement to regulate the labor migration flows between these two neighboring countries. They have needed such an agreement my entire life… I am part of a bi-national group that believes that things can be done better. The members of this group came together because we have observed, over decades, the great harm that both countries have suffered due to the bilateral regulatory void. We come from both countries and we have very different perspectives: We have worked with unions, employers, the border patrol, nation-states, think tanks, and universities. Our partisan affiliations span the political spectrum in the United States as well as in Mexico.

We propose the following three innovations that I will highlight, among others:

  • First: In the past there was no serious mechanism to defend the rights of the Mexican worker in the US. We propose that Mexico be responsible for the certification of labor recruiters in Mexico, pursuant to the Federal Labor Law of 2012, and we propose a system of visa portability within defined sectors of the American economy so that no worker is obliged to remain with an abusive employer.
  • Second: In the past there was also no serious mechanism to protect the priority of American workers for jobs in the US, without which no agreement is possible. We propose a U.S. worker priority fee, paid by the employer. This ensures that employers have a strong and transparent incentive to hire American workers when they are available, and generates revenue to offset the costs of implementing the agreement.
  • Third: In the past there was no regulatory regime capable of reacting to economic and demographic changes in either country. To set the number of visas, we propose what we call a decelerator safeguard cap. This limits, in a transparent and predictable manner, the year-to-year changes in the number of new work permits granted. This proposal could mitigate the impact of unexpected events in the labor markets of the United States and Mexico, without a rigid absolute quota whose ultimate effect would be to feed the black market.

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