Malaysia reclassified, now eligible for job-outsourcing Trans-Pacific Partnership


WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur responded today to news that Malaysia has been reclassified in the U.S. State Department 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This move paves the way for the country to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could put its labor force into direct competition with American workers.


“Putting a fig leaf over Malaysia’s human trafficking record and welcoming them into the job-outsourcing Trans-Pacific Partnership deal shows exactly what that deal is all about: cheap labor at any cost,” said Rep. Kaptur. “This is one of the darkest legacies of global trade: a seemingly endless race to the bottom that capitalizes on the sweat and labor of faceless workers whose suffering may be known only to God. Today’s reclassification shows that even the most basic tools for combating human trafficking can be pushed aside to keep that race running.


“The fundamental moral problem with modern trade deals, from NAFTA to the TPP, is that they largely advantage transnational corporations first. Powerful firms outsource millions of U.S. middle class jobs to foreign production platforms, abandoning their U.S. workers and indenturing legions of helpless laborers abroad. This downward spiral of exploitation relegates America's avowed principles of democracy and human rights to the ash heap.


“This exploitation—essentially degutting the value of work itself—is directed by the wealthiest and most powerful global interests: transnational corporations, their investors, and the banks and boards that operate them. Outsourcing for private gain to serve these few creates a fundamental conflict within our Republic between the economics that benefit the few and the politics of our democracy that should benefit all.”


Today’s rating change for Malaysia has drawn criticism from other members of the House and Senate as well as leading human rights groups, as it comes just a few months after an amendment to the President’s “Fast Track” trade authority prohibiting any trade agreement with a nation classified as a Tier 3 violator on human trafficking. Malaysia had been classified as Tier 3, the category for the worst offenders.


Earlier this year, Malaysian authorities announced that they had discovered 28 sites suspected to have been human trafficking camps, as well as more than 100 mass grave sites of dead migrants smuggled from Burma. One survivor recounted, “I was locked up in a cage like the goats and chickens, and all the time, I was surrounded by death. Each day, five or six of us would die, either from illness or were beaten up and shot."


Earlier this month, 160 Members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern over reports that the State Department was planning to upgrade Malaysia’s status in its TIP report.