• Violetta Kuzmova-Anand | Consultant
  • Jorge Gallo | Regional Media and Communications Officer for Central America, North America and the Caribbean

Migration isn't just about people moving from one place to another. It's a powerful force that can drive economies forward, especially when it comes to international trade. The Central, North American, and Caribbean region is a testament to this, with migration playing a pivotal role in bolstering exports, aligning with the aspirations of SDG 17 and its target 17.11. 

In the recently released IOM Flagship Report 2023, the spotlight is on the undeniable synergy between migration and international trade. The report champions the idea of harnessing the diverse contributions of the diaspora to supercharge sustainable development finance, trade systems, and global value chains. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges migrants as invaluable contributors to sustainable growth. These global citizens are bridging gaps, creating new business avenues, and fostering trade connections between their home, transit, and destination nations, ultimately reducing trade costs (as noted by OECD, 2022). 

But what do these observations translate to in tangible terms? IOM's Regional Office for Central, North America, and the Caribbean delved deep into the data. Their findings? A resounding affirmation that migrants are positively influencing international exports throughout the region.  

Here are some eye-opening insights from the report: 

  • A modest 1% uptick in migrant stock in a destination country correlates with an average 0.23% surge in that country's exports. 

  • Money-wise, a 1% growth in migrant stock across the region equates to an impressive increase of 7,751 USD in exports for every additional migrant, based on data from 1990 to 2020. 

Interestingly, while all three subregions (Central America, North America, and the Caribbean) benefit from this migration-export synergy, North America emerges as the frontrunner. 

Migrants are enriching host economies in myriad ways. They bring diverse skills, facilitate knowledge exchange, and help in reducing trade costs (as highlighted by studies from Ortega and Peri, 2014; Bahar and Rapoport, 2018, among others). The unique skills migrants possess, and their ability to integrate with local business networks can significantly influence trade dynamics across countries and regions. 

While the current analysis offers a wealth of insights, a more granular examination is essential to decode the nuances of migration effects across the subregions. Yet, one thing is clear: embracing a liberal migration policy can be a game-changer for trade conditions and export growth. 

However, migration doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's intertwined with other sustainable development facets like trade, GDP growth, and foreign investments. A holistic approach, which considers these interdependencies, is crucial. One promising strategy is to integrate migration considerations into trade agreements, promoting the free movement of migrants. This curtails irregular migration and upholds human rights, as outlined in the Global Compact for Migration. In essence, dismantling barriers to regular migration is the key to unlocking sustainable growth via international trade (SDG 17). 

So, as we move forward, let's celebrate migration not just as a journey of people but as a journey towards a prosperous and interconnected global economy.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals