Two weeks ago, I flagged the fact that the U.S. State Department was preparing to upgrade Malaysia’s ranking in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report from Tier 3 to Tier 2 despite little to no evidence of any improvement whatsoever. This was to be done in order to include it in the secret and shady Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Here’s an excerpt from the post, To Pass TPP, U.S. State Dept. Upgrades Malaysia’s Human Trafficking Ranking Despite Discovery of Mass Graves:
So why would the State Department magically upgrade Malaysia? Well, because of a tiny provision in the fast track “Trade Promotion Authority” deal that Congress recently passed. It noted that fast track authority would not apply to trade deals involving countries that were categorized as “tier 3″ by the State Department. In other words, this should have given the US tremendous leverage to push Malaysia to really tackle the problem. Instead, because it appears that the administration is so focused on getting the TPP officially finished and ratified, it got the State Department to just magically upgrade Malaysia, and effectively spit on the graves of those murdered migrant workers.
So how bad is Malaysia’s human rights record? The Huffington Post reported the following earlier this month:
But members of Congress and human rights advocates say they fear the Obama administration may pressure officials in the State Department who are responsible for the report to boost Malaysia, even though it has shown no improvement since it was ranked at the bottom last year. Global Slavery Index says some 140,000 people are enslaved in Malaysia, and the country’s dismal record was starkly revealed earlier this year with the discovery of mass graves holding illegally trafficked Rohingya Muslims.
Now we learn the following from the Intercept:
The State Department on Monday took Malaysia off a list of countries with particularly egregious human trafficking records, clearing the path for the country’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, one of the top political priorities for the Obama administration.
The move to officially upgrade Malaysia from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the department’s annual report on human trafficking came despite scant evidence that the country has improved oversight of the businesses that enslave workers within its borders. It has raised concerns among some anti-trade activists that the decision was made for purely political reasons.
The trade promotion authority that Congress approved, which was signed into law by President Obama in June, came with a condition: No country on Tier 3 of the human trafficking report could get “fast-track” status for trade agreements signed with the United States.
In other words, trade deals with a Tier 3 country could not go to Congress for a guaranteed up-or-down vote without the possibility of filibuster or amendment. Malaysia is one of 12 countries negotiating TPP. The White House tried on multiple occasions to neutralize this language without success. So the State Department’s upgrade for Malaysia could be seen as a Plan B.
In 2014, the State Department demoted Malaysia to Tier 3 status for being a destination “for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and children subjected to sex trafficking.” Malaysia’s 4 million foreign workers are threatened by large smuggling debts and confiscated passports that put them at the mercy of recruiting companies. Women in particular, recruited for hotel or beauty salon work, are routinely coerced into the commercial sex trade. And forced labor runs rampant in agricultural, construction and textile industries, producing the same goods that would get duty-free access to U.S. markets under TPP.
Never let human rights abuse get in the way of a corporate giveaway.
In case you missed it, I discussed this issue on my recent interview on the Keiser Report:
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