Menendez Amendment Would Increase Accountability for U.S. Trade Partners on Combating Human Trafficking
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed the Senate’s inclusion of Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority Act (HR 1314). The amendment would prevent expedited consideration by the administration of trade agreements with countries that fail to meet minimum standards in their efforts to combat human trafficking, as determined by the State Department.
“This is an important first step towards increasing accountability on human trafficking issues with U.S. trade allies,” said Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey. “We urge the House of Representatives to include similar language aimed at increasing the risks for perpetrators across the globe where the United States is entering into new partnerships.”
The amendment’s prohibition on expedited consideration of trade agreements would apply to agreements with all countries that have received a Tier 3 ranking in the State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, unless the president issues a waiver in instances where a country has a plan to improve their record on combatting trafficking.
The annually-released TIP Report monitors and reports on the progress of governments around the world to combat human trafficking, issuing a ranking of Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3 for each country. The countries that received a Tier 3 ranking in the most recent 2014 TIP report are Algeria, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic Of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Human Rights First notes that it is important to work with countries during negotiations and prior to signing a trade deal to improve efforts to combat human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Labor produces a report for Congress that lists goods made with forced labor or child labor around the world.
“The United States currently has trade agreements with ten countries listed in the Department of Labor report and continues to import approximately $11.8 billion in goods tainted by slave labor. There is an additional $12 billion in goods produced by forced labor at stake with new free trade agreements under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Obama Administration should leverage the opportunity during negotiations to eliminate forced labor from these imported goods,” added Febrey.
Human Rights First continues to urge Congress to uphold the integrity of the TIP Report rankings by avoiding the politicization of the ranking process. Countries with strong diplomatic ties to the United States have been ranked leniently by the TIP Report. In 2014 India, the 11th largest U.S. trade partner, was given a Tier 2 ranking signifying that the country is making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking. Yet India has an estimated 20-65 million slaves, a significant portion of the global total.