Earlier this week the US State Department issued its annual Trafficking In Persons Report. More than just a report, this is a tool to pressure governments to address human rights abuses and slavery within their borders.
FWP joined other allies in sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry supporting the decision to keep Thailand’s Tier 3 designation, which is the lowest possible ranking. The letter read in part that the ranking “will be an important tool for governments, international institutions, companies and investors to continue to press the Thai authorities to enact more substantive reforms to end the labor trafficking that can be found in many sectors of Thailand’s economy, including seafood.” The next day, the New York Times ran a story describing slavery in the Thailand’s seafood industry.
Malaysia, where mass graves of migrants were found earlier this year, was elevated to Tier 2. This decision has been criticized globally and it is widely believed that the upgrade had more to do with President Obama’s trade agenda than with advances in preventing human trafficking in Malaysia. President Obama gained Fast Track Authority to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) earlier this year, but that power does not extend to negotiating with Tier 3 countries. Removing Malaysia, one of the 12 countries participating in the TPP, removes another obstacle to ushering in this secret trade deal expected to help large multi-national corporations gains profits at the expense of working families, small-scale farmers, public health, and the environment.
Upgrading Malaysia now not only takes us one step closer to a disastrous new trade agreement, it could be a foreshadowing of the ways putting profits before people will accelerate if TPP is ultimately passed. The time to speak up is now!