Dem: Reported upgrade for TPP country ‘deeply disturbing’

A second congressional Democrat on Thursday expressed concern about an Obama administration’s upgrade to Malaysia’s human-trafficking status, a move that could help smooth the approval of a massive Pacific Rim trade agreement.

Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) say they are troubled by reports that the State Department might give Malaysia a promotion from the lowest level of its annual list of global trafficking conditions.

{mosads}”Reports of a change in Malaysia’s human trafficking ranking are deeply disturbing,” Levin said in a statement.

The State Department, which is soon expected to release this year’s data, is expected to move Malaysia up to tier 2 after a demotion last year in its “Trafficking in Persons” report.

The move would allow Malaysia to remain a part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which could be completed later this month in Hawaii.

“It is crucial that consideration of Malaysia’s record on human trafficking reflect the realities on the ground and not a glossing over of those realities to assist Malaysia’s participation in TPP,” Levin said.

“It is essential that expanded trade be based on standards and their implementation, not their evasion or erosion,” he said.

Last year, Malaysia was lowered to tier 3, reflecting the assessment that there were critical problems with the treatment of millions of migrants workers and that the country wasn’t making efforts to improve working conditions.

“The administration must focus its efforts on getting Malaysia to fully comply with international labor standards, because the human trafficking problem includes a forced labor problem, which is prohibited by the labor chapter envisioned for TPP,” Levin said.

“That’s why it is so important that we get TPP right, ensuring that Malaysia and other countries like Mexico and Vietnam correct their immense and deeply troubling worker rights deficiencies before Congress votes.”

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