July 9, 2015
By Dave Boyer
Human-rights groups, labor and other opponents of President Obama’s proposed free-trade deal in Asia blasted Thursday the administration’s expected move to upgrade Malaysia’s human-trafficking status as a sweetener to complete the trade pact.
“We are outraged by this clearly political decision,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who said the move “signals that the U.S. is willing to turn a blind eye to modern slavery and grave human and labor rights abuses in order to advance its trade agenda.”
The State Department is expected to upgrade Malaysia to Tier 2, from the lowest level in its Trafficking in Persons report, that is to be released next week.
Malaysia is among the 11 Pacific rim partners to Mr. Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free-trade agreement that is the centerpiece of his second-term economic agenda and his foreign-policy “pivot” to Asia.
Late last month, Congress granted Mr. Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate trade agreements more easily. The TPP could be completed later this month.
Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, is among lawmakers expressing concern about the anticipated move with Malaysia.
Mr. Trumka said Malaysia’s record on human rights has not improved.
“Forced labor, human trafficking, and exploitation remain pervasive,” he said. “If Malaysia is rewarded with greater market access under the Trans-Pacific Partnership without having to first undertake fundamental reforms, there will be little incentive for Malaysia to end this brutality.”
He added, “Unfortunately, the administration appears to be resolute in forging a flawed trade agreement with countries that currently violate fundamental labor and human rights while continuing a global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.”