WASHINGTON, DC—A bipartisan group of 160 Members of Congress today called on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to not upgrade Malaysia in the U.S. Department of State’s soon-to-be-released 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report. Leading the effort were Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
Last week, Reuters reported that the State Department plans to upgrade Malaysia to the Tier 2 Watch List from Tier 3 in its Trafficking in Persons Report, although the country has failed to make substantive improvements in combating trafficking.
“The TIP Report has become the global gold standard in assessing how well governments meet the challenge of human trafficking…And we’ve seen no reason during the reporting period for this year’s TIP Report that would justify moving Malaysia back to the Watch List. If anything, the situation in Malaysia has grown worse. Malaysia has earned its place on Tier 3,” the Members wrote in the letter.
Under recently-passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation in Congress, Tier 3 countries are excluded from trade agreements expedited by Congress, including the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Fourteen Republican Members signed the letter, as well as 12 Democrats who voted in support of TPA.
“An upgrade for Malaysia is certainly not merited by the facts we’ve seen. So we’re left to conclude that Malaysia’s upgrade, if reported correctly, has been driven by external considerations…Under these circumstances, a decision to upgrade Malaysia to the Tier 2 Watch List would undermine the credibility of the Trafficking in Persons Report. A decade and a half of progress would rightly be called into question,” the Members continued.