Muslims WorldWide

Analyst: ‘If US won’t take more Syrian refugees, extend trade agreements to those who do’

If US won’t take more Syrian refugees, extend trade agreements to those who do

By Alex Nowrasteh, May 27, 2016, 08:00 am
contributor The Hill

Almost 6 million Syrians have left their home country due to the civil war. Most of them are in the Middle East: 2.7 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon and 640,000 in Jordan. The United States has resettled a mere 3,619 here while Europe has accepted over 1 million. Western nations aren’t politically eager to accept more fleeing Syrians due to fears of terrorism and the cost to taxpayers.

Allowing Americans to privately sponsor refugees, increasing the numbers or giving them priority for work visas would all ease the humanitarian crisis. If those options are not politically possible, the United States and other Western nations have other options to help Syrian refugees in the Middle East that will help keep them there.The United States and Europe should extend even more generous free-trade agreements (FTAs) to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In exchange, those governments will hand out legal work permits to the Syrian refugees and remove all restrictions on their employment, entrepreneurial activity and living arrangements. They shouldn’t face extra fees, or wage or labor market regulations. Likewise, firms that hire the Syrians shouldn’t face any extra burdens, fees or taxes.

Expanded FTAs will lessen the humanitarian burden and improve the livelihood of Syrians at zero fiscal cost to the West. All we’d give up are a few tariffs and customs procedures that make us worse off anyway. Enhanced FTAs will spur domestic industry in nations housing Syrians, sucking up refugees and natives alike in an expanding economy.

More income, employment and options for the Syrians will help them start their lives anew and decrease the pressure to leave. A handful will use their newfound income to smuggle themselves to the West, but the desperate humanitarian urgency will diminish. Instead of a mad scramble to resettle asylum seekers showing up on Europe’s coasts, an orderly process of refugee resettlement can continue at lower numbers while the Syrians start their lives again.

Free-trade agreements can make a big difference in Middle Eastern countries hosting Syrians. The 2001 U.S. FTA with Jordan helped expand their exports from $229.2 million to almost $1.5 billion in 2015 — much of it concentrated in the labor-intensive apparel industry. Europe also has an FTA with Jordan.

Trade with Jordan is already so liberalized that little can be done to improve it besides freeing agricultural commodities — a big potential employer of lower-skilled Syrians. Europe and the United States should also listen to Jordanian complaints about our trade deals and unilaterally amend them to their liking. Jordan is already issuing and expanding work permits to Syrians without negative economic consequences; Western trade actions can help make sure both continue.

Expanding the Jordanian FTA to Turkey and Lebanon can also help. Lebanon is a small country with a major port but a lot of political instability made worse by European-style labor market regulations that encourage black-market hiring. According to an International Labour Organization report, “Most Syrian refugees work as informal labourers, whereby 92 percent of workers do not have a contract. Around 72 percent are hired on an hourly, daily, weekly, or seasonal basis; only 23 per cent are paid a regular monthly salary.”

Lebanon’s government is currently issuing permits to some Syrians, but they aren’t allowed to start businesses in many parts of the country. Removing strict labor market regulations that cause black-market employment would relieve that situation. The promise of a generous FTA and access to a rich market could provide the impetus to spur labor market and refugee reforms.

Turkey, on the other hand, is a larger and more modern economy with greater political stability. They’ve begun to grant permits to Syrian workers, but with minimum wages and a prohibition on more than 10 percent of employees in any single firm being Syrian. An FTA with Turkey should insist on removing those regulations while simultaneously opening up the American market to Turkish firms, giving a huge incentive to hire the Syrians and many Turks.

Free-trade agreements with Middle Eastern nations hosting Syrian refugees will accomplish important humanitarian and economic goals in that beleaguered region while satisfying other political goals in the West, like keeping the Syrians out. Ultimately, the United States should welcome in more Syrian refugees. But targeted FTAs can at least make a big difference in the mean time.

Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

6 thoughts on “Analyst: ‘If US won’t take more Syrian refugees, extend trade agreements to those who do’

  1. That shit works both ways. I think I should get into the smuggling of american products there. That’s what happens when you ban things. Makes crime profit. Ask the cosa nostra. We can tally up the money saved by bringing them here against the money earned in trade to these places. They sound like Obama. Do this or else. Fuck them. Stop demanding the west to committing cultural suicide.


  2. This is 100% backwards.

    The incurable incompatibility of Islam requires it’s extirpation in the Western World, starting with the USofA, and spreading to rest of the Americas. By the time the Americas are preserved by the prophylactic of Islamic exclusion, there may be little in Europe that can be rescued, if the indigenous peoples fall below a majority in the next century.

    So this is our time frame: we have less than a century to work with. We cannot waste time. We should already be deep in contemplation in our aims and actions.

    Cannot we anticipate the howling from Canada, Argentina and Trinidad? No going back to the old ways; a veritable Rubicon.

    Relocating UN headquarters to Riyadh, withdrawing our membership and saving a boodle of money is fine with me. FWIW, “Palestinians” are entering their FOURTH generation as professional refugees. If the UN is no more than Allah’s playground, let the rest of the Muslims support them. Adios.


  3. And six million have homes but are to lazy to fight for them They want to come here
    and steal yours so say to more rapeugees we need to deport not bring in more

    – Jacquie



  4. Traitor Alex Nowrasteh can speak only for himself and other liberal traitors who would destroy this country. Cato has lost all credibility among those with sufficient I.Q. to see the forest for the trees. When the terrorists infiltrate, “wet behind the ears” bleeding-heart Nowrasten and CATO will be among the first to piously say “who me? No blood on my hands here.” This so-called columnist has likely never heard of the Royal Bank of Canada’s Monthly Letter and long time writer John Heron who said “those who stand by and do nothing in the presence of law-breaking and wrong-doing are as guilty as those who drive the get-away car.

    Giving away our country Nowrasteh and CATO (again, NOT YOURS TO GIVE AWAY) is a crime, and you and CATO drive the get-away car ! ! ! DESPICABLE TRAITORS ONE AND ALL ! ! ! Go back to the Muslim country of England where you once studied and stay.




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