Upgrade of Malaysia’s TIP Report Ranking Would Undermine Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today warned that if the State Department upgrades Malaysia’s ranking in its forthcoming annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, it will undermine the Obama Administration’s efforts to address human trafficking. Report of the possible upgrade comes as the Obama Administration negotiates the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal between the United States and eleven countries in the Asia Pacific region that includes Malaysia.

“Without clear evidence that Malaysia has improved its anti-trafficking efforts during the past year, news that the State Department would choose to upgrade Malaysia’s TIP report ranking seems out of step with the administration’s commitment to lead in ending modern day slavery,” said Human Rights First’s Amy Sobel. “The U.S. government should not give its allies and trade partners a pass when they are failing to meet minimum standards for combating modern slavery, a crime that entraps 20.9 million men, women, and children worldwide. Upgrading Malaysia to Tier 2 in an effort to benefit trade negotiations calls into question the administration’s priorities and will seriously undermine the credibility of these rankings moving forward.”

The TIP report rankings are meant to provide an accurate accounting of global efforts to combat human trafficking and serve as a diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to improve their anti-traffiking efforts. The TIP Report issues a ranking of Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List,  or Tier 3 for each country.

Malaysia received the lowest ranking, Tier 3, in the 2014 TIP report, which noted that the country had decreased its efforts to combat trafficking as evidenced by a rapidly declining rate of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions since 2012.

Malaysia is the United States’ 20th largest trade partner and 17th largest supplier of imported goods. In 2013 the United States imported  $14.8 billion worth of electronics and $1.1 billion worth of palm oil from Malaysia, both of which are products on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) List of Goods Produced by Child Labor and Forced Labor.

This is not the first instance of countries with strong diplomatic ties to the United States being 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. India has an estimated 20-65 million slaves, a significant portion of the global total.

Human Rights First continues to urge the administration to uphold the integrity of the TIP Report rankings by avoiding the politicization of the ranking process. Human Rights First has joined together with prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state and local government, and civil rights community to urge the U.S. government to develop common sense policies to dismantle the business of human trafficking. For more information, read Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking.”

Press

Published on July 9, 2015

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