Senate Urged to Hold Trade Partners Accountable for Progress Combating Human Trafficking
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the Senate to support section 6(b)6 of the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 995), which 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 would apply to all countries that have received a Tier 3 ranking in the State Department’s most recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
“Eliminating the rapidly growing criminal enterprise of human trafficking will require the U.S. government to hold Tier 3 countries accountable for their failures to address modern slavery,” said Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey. “Passing this provision is an important step toward reshaping U.S. trade relationships to promote stronger international efforts to combat modern slavery. We urge the Senate to support this provision and to continue to leverage trade negotiations, including ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, to require partner nations to meet certain human rights benchmarks before entering into an agreement.”
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 as the administration negotiates the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, the Tier 3 ranking of Malaysia is of particular concern. Malaysia is known to have a high prevalence of forced labor, particularly in the electronics sector. The U.S. currently imports about $18.8 billion worth of electronics goods from Malaysia. The proposed TPP trade agreement would be between the United States and eleven countries in the Asia Pacific region. The administration has brought together a diverse group of advisors during the exploratory stages of the TPP. 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.
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.
“Since the application of this provision is based solely on TIP Report rankings, it is crucial that these rankings not be influenced by political leanings or diplomatic relationships. The United States should not give its allies like India a pass when they are failing to meet minimum standards for combating modern slavery,” added Febrey.