Trade Shouldn’t Trump Trafficking: The TPP Negotiations

The next round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) begins next week. The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that includes the United States and eleven countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam and will affect 792 million people and involve more than 40% of the world economy.

The administration is patting itself on the back for bringing together a diverse group of participants into the advisory process: labor unions, environmental groups, faith organizations, public health advocates, consumer organizations, local and state officials, farmers, ranchers, and small business. The one glaring omission: activists who combat human trafficking.

The TPP has huge implications for trafficking. Malaysia is ranked on Tier 3 of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which means its government doesn’t meet minimum standards for combatting trafficking. It was specifically downgraded for failing to deal with a high prevalence of forced labor on farms, factories, and construction work.

Nearly 80 percent of the 21 million people enslaved worldwide are victims of forced labor. Many are in countries that would be party to the TPP. The United States has made public commitments to fight human trafficking—the United States should use its clout to integrate them into the TPP—and into all its trade deals.

Of the top ten countries the United States trades goods with, five are on Tier 3 of the TIP report. As Senator Menendez said at a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, “It undermines our moral authority to say that we’re willing to do business with you, but on this issue [of human trafficking], you’re on our list but we’re willing to do business with you.”


Published on March 6, 2015


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