A Little Slavery and Some Mass Graves Won’t Deter Obama From the TPPAfter the Obama administration and congressional Republicans failed last month to delete from the controversial trade deal language banning trade with countries on a State Department human trafficking list, the president appears to have simply reclassified an offending nation.
After the Obama administration and congressional Republicans failed last month to delete from the controversial trade deal language banning trade with countries on a State Department human trafficking list, the president appears to have simply reclassified an offending nation.
That nation is Malaysia. The Nation’s Washington editor George Zornick reports that the country “is home to many ‘outsourcing companies’ that are, in reality, professional slaving operations: foreign workers, often refugees fleeing desperate situations in nearby countries like Burma, are recruited to the country with the promise of legitimate work but then subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The State Department and international human rights groups have routinely concluded the Malaysian government does very little to inhibit the traffickers’ operation.”
Senator Robert Menendez inserted language into the Senate version of fast-track prohibiting the use of fast-track for a trade deal with a Tier 3 country, presumably with an eye on Malaysia. The Obama administration and Republican leaders in the House tried to have the language removed but were unable to excise it due to the complicated path the fast-track bill took through Congress.
Observers were then unsure what would happen next. Would Malaysia be thrown out of the deal? Would the United States lean hard on the Malaysian government to crack down on human traffickers so it could sign the trade deal? Was there any chance fast track would be disengaged for the TPP?
Instead, the Obama administration appears to have chosen another path that has shocked the human-rights community: It will simply reclassify Malaysia. Reuters has reported that when the Trafficking in Persons report comes out next week, Malaysia will no longer be a Tier 3 country.
There is essentially zero evidence Malaysia has done anything to earn this reclassification. Just two months ago, police found 139 mass graves along the Malaysian border that contained migrant workers that had been trafficked or held for ransom.
The broad concern, Zornick writes, “is that the move suggests the administration isn’t serious about enforcing other areas of fast track and the TPP when it comes to other human-rights, environmental, or labor standards.”
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— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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