Why have countries increasingly restricted immigration even when they have opened their markets to foreign competition through trade or allowed their firms to move jobs overseas? In Trading Barriers, Margaret Peters argues that the increased ability of firms to produce anywhere in the world combined with growing international competition due to lowered trade barriers has led to greater limits on immigration.
Peters explains that businesses relying on low-skill labor have been the major proponents of greater openness to immigrants. Immigration helps lower costs, making these businesses more competitive at home and abroad. However, increased international competition, due to lower trade barriers and greater economic development in the developing world, has led many businesses in wealthy countries to close or move overseas. Productivity increases have allowed those firms that have chosen to remain behind to do more with fewer workers. Together, these changes in the international economy have sapped the crucial business support necessary for more open immigration policies at home, empowered anti-immigrant groups, and spurred greater controls on migration.
Debunking the commonly held belief that domestic social concerns are the deciding factor in determining immigration policy, Trading Barriers demonstrates the important and influential role played by international trade and capital movements.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2018 IPE Best Book Award, International Political Economy Section of the International Studies Association
- Winner of the 2018 ENMISA Distinguished Book Award, Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Migration Section of the International Studies Association
- Selected for the Washington Post’s Albies “for the best work on the political economy in 2017” (chosen by Daniel W. Drezner)
- Winner of the 2018 Best Book Award, Migration and Citizenship Section of the American Political Science Association
- Winner of the 2018 Theodore J. Lowi First Book Award, American Political Science Association
Margaret E. Peters is assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"The consistency of the findings across different contexts should be deeply informative for those who negotiate trade and immigration policy. If we cannot have both freer trade and freer immigration, we should choose carefully between the two. . . . All in all, the book is well worth reading and should bring a new and influential perspective to the ongoing debate over trade and immigration policy."—Greg C. Wright, Finance & Development
"A timely and well-researched study that offers valuable insight into the trade-offs between free trade and immigration."—Paul Caruana-Galizia, London School of Economics Review of Books blog
"Trading Barriers is an ambitious book that challenges the political economy of migration. In contrast to the common explanations that need for workers drives immigration and competition over limited jobs gives rise to anti-immigrant sentiment, Peters posits that people have overlooked the role of the firm in shaping immigration debates and outcomes."—Choice
"Particularly masterful is Peters’ innovative methodological use of data and analysis; she utilizes a number of datasets to prove her argument, many of which are original and innovative."—Erica Consterdine, International Migration Review
"Creative and well-researched, Trading Barriers brings together two phenomena that scholars often examine separately: migration and international trade. Peters shows that the liberalization of trade and foreign investment in our globalized world has undercut support for open immigration. In a time of seeming backlash against globalization, this book provides a historical and rigorous empirical explanation of the politics."—Helen Milner, Princeton University
"The politics of trade and immigration are typically looked at independently, even though their economic effects are similar. In Trading Barriers, Peters argues that we cannot understand the political economy of trade and the political economy of immigration in isolation from one another. This is a careful, original study of an increasingly important topic that will be of interest to all scholars of international politics and economics."—Jeffry Frieden, Harvard University
"Filling a gap in the broad literature on immigration, this masterful book explains why some countries are open to migration at certain times while at others they are closed. It argues that a country's immigration policy occurs not in isolation, but in the same space that trade and capital market policies are determined."—David Leblang, University of Virginia
"Using systematic data and thoughtful research design strategies, Peters offers a compelling analysis of immigration policy, arguing that policymakers face trade-offs in limiting immigration, firm mobility, and trade barriers. Her book will not only contribute to debates in political economy, but also to larger policy conversations."—William Bernhard, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign