House lawmakers urge WH to stop trade talks with Brunei over human rights issues

More than 100 House lawmakers sent a letter on Thursday to top White House officials calling for the end of trade negotiations with Brunei over human rights issues.

All told, 119 House lawmakers asked Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to stop any further negotiations Brunei on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement until the government revokes its criminal code.

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The lawmakers argue that the newly adopted code “threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals."

Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) led the letter that insists on stopping the TPP trade negotiations.

“We believe that protecting fundamental human rights is a cornerstone of American values and must always be a priority in our relations, both diplomatic and economic, with foreign countries,” they wrote. 

The argued that the United States has spoken out against anti-LGBT activity and discriminatory laws in countries like Nigeria and Uganda; against unequal protection of women in countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia; and against the persecution of religious minorities in the Central African Republic, China and Pakistan.

"Brunei’s adoption of the revised penal code legalizes violence against its citizens, constituting torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment," they wrote.

"The United States must make it clear that we will not tolerate such abuses."

They said that global trading partners have plenty to gain from an economic relationship with the United States, and trade deals should ensure a high level of "internationally recognized civil, political, and human rights standards."

“As the world’s largest economy, the United States holds a significant place in world affairs and must use this position to address human rights atrocities in countries like Brunei,” they wrote.