In a year where the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement garners all the noise the press can muster, did a report on human trafficking get a nip and tuck from the State Department in order to facilitate negotiations? Certain nations got a facelift, possibly by design, despite evidence that they did little, nothing, or went backwards on efforts to fight human trafficking. Reuters reports that that is indeed the case, and that it appears to have happened at the behest of senior figures in the department is a national disgrace.
Perhaps the term “human trafficking” is too benign for the practice, and too considerate of delicate sensibilities. However, the term “slavery” is exactly what it is, and no other term conveys the desperate situation that those caught in its web find themselves in. To allow commerce and politics to trump human dignity and trade policy to override egregious wrongs done to actual people is an ethical and moral failing of epic proportions. Among the more scandalous of the alterations are the following:
- China: Originally placed in Tier 3, China was nipped and tucked into a Tier 2 Watch List rating.
- Cuba: Same treatment as China.
- India: Originally placed on the Tier 2 Watch list, India got a primping to Tier 2.
- Malaysia: Treated much the same as China, with an upgrade from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, despite doing very little against human trafficking.
- Mexico: Placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, Mexico was buffed into a Tier 2 placement.
- Thailand: Because nobody could honestly say that Thailand did anything substantive about human trafficking other than aid and abet it until their feet were put to the fire, Tier 3 stayed a Tier 3.
- Uzbekistan: Tier 3 standing upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List despite continued forced labor.
These rankings are not absolute numbers. For instance, a Tier 1 country is not one that has no human trafficking whatsoever, but rather a country that comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims’ Protection Act. Tier 2 status means that governments in those countries are “making significant efforts” to bring themselves into Tier 1 levels of compliance. Countries on the Tier 2 Watch List do not comply with the TVPA minimum standards, with numbers of victims in trafficking, and a failure to provide evidence to combat severe forms of trafficking or increasing numbers of people being trafficked despite commitments to do so. Tier 3 is the absolute bottom of the barrel, with governments who could seemingly give a whistle in a windstorm about the TVPA and are not making efforts to comply.
The JTIP report is now tarnished by these accusations that have damaged not only the credibility and integrity of the State Department, but the government of the United States stands accused of putting a thumb on the scale of justice. In doing so, we condemn untold numbers of victims to slavery in the name of trade and commerce.