Obama claims positive relationship between Trans-Pacific Partnership and human rights in Malaysia

Source: Politifact
First published on August 5, 2016

Trying to rally support for the oft-criticized Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Barack Obama said it will go a long way to improving human rights conditions across the globe.

Specifically, he said during a press conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Loong, it will curb human trafficking in Malaysia.

“The same is true for things like human trafficking, where we’ve got a country like Malaysia taking really serious efforts to crack down on human trafficking,” Obama said. “Why? Because TPP says you need to.”

We’ve rated two other claims from this press conference (a Mostly True on tariff cuts and a Half True on Vietnamese labor rights). Here, we look at the situation on the ground in Malaysia. Read more

Trade or Human Rights? Integrity of State Department Trafficking Report Still an Open Question — Charlie Fanning

Source: AFL-CIO

BY CHARLIE FANNING

06/30/2016. The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report is a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for their failures to prevent human trafficking. The report ranks governments worldwide into one of three tiers based on their efforts to combat and prevent trafficking and forced labor, with the lowest ranking of tier three carrying economic sanctions. The release of the 2016 report has been met with mixed reviews from labor and anti-trafficking groups.

In recent years, the administration has politicized the ranking of certain countries to fit its trade and economic agenda rather than prioritizing people’s right to live in freedom. Last year, after the State Department upgraded Malaysia—a potential Trans-Pacific Partnership trading partner—from tier three, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said: “The administration appears to be resolute in forging a flawed trade agreement with countries that currently violate fundamental labor and human rights.”

This year, the administration doubled down on the mistake and failed to downgrade Malaysia, despite reports that grueling working conditions for migrant workers remain the norm. Indeed, the Nepal Embassy recently reported that some 2,945 Nepalese migrant workers died on the job in Malaysia in the past 10 years—an average of nearly one worker per day. Read more

Malaysia remain in the Tier 2 Watch List in the latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2016 by the US State Department

OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
June 30, 2016

MALAYSIA: Tier 2 Watch List

Malaysia is a destination and, to a much lesser extent, source and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and women and a small number of children subjected to sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking victims are among the estimated two million documented and an even greater number of undocumented migrant laborers in Malaysia. Foreign workers—primarily from Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Burma, and other Southeast Asian countries—typically migrate voluntarily to Malaysia to pursue better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labor or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labor recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel. Foreign workers employed by outsourcing or contract labor companies, which may or may not have oversight of personnel issues or day-to-day working conditions, have heightened vulnerabilities to exploitative labor conditions and a reduced ability to resolve disputes. Agents in labor source countries may impose onerous fees on workers before they arrive in Malaysia, in some cases causing debt bondage. Foreign workers in Malaysia and the companies which employ them are subject to a range of government fees for immigration processing, foreign worker levies, and other administrative processes. The law allows many of the fees, which are initially paid by employers, to be deducted from workers’ wages, incentivizing employers to prevent workers from ending their employment before fees are recouped. Government regulations placed the burden of paying some immigration and employment authorization fees on foreign workers; this practice makes workers more susceptible to debt bondage. Authorities report organized crime syndicates are responsible for some instances of trafficking. Corruption among immigration and police officers remains a problem and impedes efforts to address trafficking. Read more