What to Look For from U.S. Trade Partners in the Upcoming TIP Report

On Monday the Department of State will release its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. The report ranks nations according to their efforts to comply with minimum standards as laid out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The report can impact trade partnerships, opening up countries receiving the worst rankings to sanctions. Recent reports over a possible upgrade for Malaysia from Tier 3, the worst ranking, to Tier 2, are troubling. An upgrade should be a sign of progress, but progress in Malaysia is difficult to spot. Upgrading the country for the purpose of facilitating passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would amount to a politicization of the ranking process.

The United States has many major trade partners, so in advance of the report’s release, Human Rights First is looking into our top allies in the global marketplace and sharing what we hope to see under their names in the TIP report.


Our neighbor to the north, and member-nation of the proposed TPP trade deal, was ranked in Tier 1 of the 2014 TIP report. Canada had 25 convictions of traffickers in 2013, had identified 198 victims, and had 42 ongoing prosecutions by the end of February of last year— an increase across the board from the previous year.

What we hope to see: Canada’s continued ranking in Tier 1 and an increase in investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.


China presents a conundrum for the TIP report. Although ranked in Tier 2, the country has not provided detailed data in some time. For the 2014 report, China did not relay numbers of victims identified, nor did it indicate a specific number of cases that complied with international laws on human trafficking. What was reported—40,000 alleged suspects in criminal detention and 5,000 incidents of action taken against trafficking groups—is not considered accurate.

What we hope to see: Transparency.


Ranked as Tier 2, Mexico continues to face unreliable reporting and widespread corruption among officials and law enforcement. What is promising, however, is that prosecutors recorded 52 convictions in the 2014 report, with several investigations combined between the federal and state levels.

What we hope to see: Movement toward standardized reporting from all jurisdictions, a crackdown on corrupt law enforcement officials, and continued collaboration between Mexican and U.S. law enforcement.


Another member-nation in the proposed TPP trade deal, Japan was ranked Tier 2 in the 2014 TIP report. Authorities recorded 31 convictions and began 28 investigations. This is technically a decrease in cases, but is likely due to changes in the definitions of trafficking terms. One of the most concerning challenges for anti-trafficking activists is Japan’s Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TTIP), which purportedly offers technical skills to migrant workers, but often subjects them to substandard wages, restricted movement, and extended hours.

What we hope to see: Implementation of anti-trafficking efforts reportedly researched during the last reporting process, closer monitoring of the TTIP.


Germany, a Tier 1 country, boasts a trend of increasing or steady numbers of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. However, the most recently provided statistics were received in 2012. Although law enforcement efforts fully met standards laid out in the TVPA, those convicted of trafficking routinely saw their sentences suspended, indicating that sentencing practices need to be reevaluated to match the severity of the crime. Law enforcement efforts, such as cooperating with Europol and neighboring nations on trafficking cases, continue to focus mainly on sex trafficking.

What we hope to see: Continued success in investigation, prosecution, and conviction. Improved efforts to enforce sentences commensurate with the crime.

South Korea:

Also a Tier 1 trade partner of the United States, South Korea has documented progress in recent years. In 2013 the South Korea instituted a new anti-trafficking law that sufficiently expanded trafficking definitions and made sentences for those convicted of the crime more severe. However, the new law often takes a backseat to the previous legal framework for prosecuting sex trafficking and violations of labor standards. Under this older set of laws, criminals typically receive lighter sentences, many of which are suspended.

What we hope to see: Usage of Chapter 31 of the Criminal Code instituted in 2013, which would increase sentences for convicted traffickers, thereby increasing the risk for would-be criminals.

United Kingdom:

The United Kingdom has either maintained or increased efforts to combat trafficking by identifying victims, investigating criminal networks, and convicting traffickers as of 2014. The government also launched public awareness campaigns and introduced new regulations to protect victims of trafficking while they testify against their victimizers at trial.

What we hope to see: Continued success in prosecuting and convicting traffickers. For victims: improved efforts to provide long-term solutions as an alternative to deportation in the most extreme of cases, regardless of immigration status.


As a destination for many victims of human trafficking, France has undertaken significant efforts to earn its Tier 1 ranking. In addition to combating complex sex trafficking networks, authorities have identified an extensive presence of forced begging and theft by children and have committed resources to combating it.

What we hope to see: Increased prosecutions and convictions. Despite the acknowledgment of the extent of the problem, cases against traffickers and convictions stemming from them remain low.


Debt bondage and forced labor remain the most significant trafficking problems in India. According to the 2014 TIP Report, an estimated 20-65 million people are subjected to bonded labor at any given time. Many of these victims work to erase debts incurred by previous generations. Government efforts to combat the problem were insufficient across the board and failed to help the additional millions of women and children subjected to sex trafficking.

What we hope to see: Punishment for officials, businesses, and any abettor of labor or sex trafficking. Additionally, India should establish widespread programs to train professionals to identify and provide relief to victims, while simultaneously addressing the little talked about public acceptance of human trafficking.


Published on July 24, 2015


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