President Obama Urged to Raise Concerns Over Human Trafficking Policies During Trade Discussions

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First urges the president to ensure any trade deal made with countries that have received poor rankings from the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report includes provisions to promote better anti-trafficking policies and practices. The call comes as President Obama prepares to give remarks on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations at the headquarters of Nike on Friday.

The annually released TIP Report monitors and reports on the progress of governments around the world to combat human trafficking, issuing a tier ranking for each country. Malaysia, one of the countries included in the TPP negotiations, was given the lowest ranking in the most recent TIP report.

“Trade relations are a powerful diplomatic tool that should be used to spotlight the problem of modern slavery and apply pressure on trade partners to develop and implement better policies and practices to combat human trafficking,” said Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey. “Approximately 21 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide, many of them in Asia. We urge President Obama to emphasize the importance of addressing this human rights problem as part of the trade agreement.”

The proposed TPP trade agreement would be between the United States and eleven countries in the Asia Pacific region. The exploratory stages of the TPP have brought together a diverse group of participants as advisors. Omitted from the group was the presence of experts on combating human trafficking, which could have provided insight into the failings of governments to effectively counter modern day slavery.

“Many current U.S. trade partners are failing to adopt sufficient measures to fight modern day slavery. History shows us that past free trade agreements have not coincided with improvements in partner countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking. We have leverage now while negotiating the TPP and should require countries to enact policies that protect vulnerable workers.”


Published on May 7, 2015


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