Every year, Washington State received hundreds of calls to the crisis hotline on human trafficking. UW Women’s Center reports “Our geographic location makes Washington State the host of multiple access points conducive to human trafficking including, an international border, airport, and seaport. All of which support a high volume of people traveling in and out of the state. Additionally, the prevalence of trade related occupations and the demand for agricultural labor in outlying areas further facilitate the occurrence of slave labor.”
In a globalizing world, human trafficking has become a growing industry and is increasingly profitable. While negotiating the TPP, the U.S. had a unique point of leverage to push countries and companies to strengthen their oversight and better prevent these crimes. Unfortunately last summer, instead of using that moment to fight human trafficking, the U.S. trade negotiators and administration turned a blind eye, sending a message to the world that no bar is too low for us as long as mutual profits are involved.
The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would grant Malaysia, one of the world’s worst human trafficking offenders, privileged access to the U.S. market. The Obama administration concluded TPP negotiations with Malaysia in October 2015, despite the recent discovery of mass graves for human trafficking victims in Malaysia. The TPP also includes Vietnam, despite Vietnam’s jailing of political dissidents, systematic anti-union repression and widespread use of child labor. The deal would also forge closer ties between the United States and Brunei, which has enacted a new sharia-based penal code that criminalizes homosexuality and threatens to punish single mothers by stoning to death.
The TPP’s inclusion of such notorious human rights abusers has shocked and angered many members of Congress and leading human rights, labor, LGBT, women’s and religious organizations. See some of their statements of concern below. Instead of heeding these concerns, the Obama administration has chosen to turn a blind eye to grave human rights violations in a cynical bid to salvage the TPP. Of the 5000+ pages of the draft TPP, the words “human rights” do not appear even once.
More on Free Trade and Human Trafficking: https://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=6587
More on connections between Free Trade and Forced Migration: http://www.citizen.org/documents/failed-trade-policy-and-immigration.pdf