How to Tell TPP Is a Bad Deal: considerations on Malaysia’s qualifications to be included in the pact

This is an extract concerning Malaysia, taken from How to Tell TPP Is a Bad Deal published in The Huffington Post by Stan Sorscher.


On May 8, 2015, President Obama spoke at Nike in Oregon about labor rights. Irony aside, the speech was eloquent and inspiring.

And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences. … If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards. If you don’t, you’re out. If you break the rules, there are actual repercussions.

Four days later, the Senate approved language saying that all countries in any new trade agreement must meet basic standards for human trafficking. As it happens, six of the 12 TPP countries have serious problems with human trafficking. Of the six, only Malaysia failed to meet the Senate’s standard for inclusion in TPP.

Two weeks after the Senate vote, shocking press reports from Malaysia described mass graves, bodies showing signs of torture and 28 camps where refugees were held in pens for human trafficking. This was the second large-scale discovery of mass graves on the Thai-Malaysia border that month. More reports followed.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia is suspected of corruption in a $700 million investigation in the U.S. and other countries. Official corruption extends into human trafficking and jungle camps.

The USTR and Obama administration could have put meaning into the President’s lofty promise at Nike. They could have said, “Malaysia is out of TPP. When Malaysia deals effectively with human trafficking, they can dock into TPP like any other country.”

Instead, on July 27, the official U.S. government upgraded its ranking of Malaysia regarding human trafficking, without explanation or justification. Presto! Malaysia is qualified to stay in the TPP.

Reuters reported that political pressure inside the State Department evaluation process pushed up Malaysia’s score.

President Obama’s eloquence at Nike will be cold comfort to Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and Thailand who are sold from one human trafficker to another. […] TPP will be great for Hewlett-Packard, Intel, AMD, Dell, Apple and other electronics producers, who use components from Malaysia, where 28% of workers in the electronics industry are subject to forced labor. Producers of palm oil, textiles, and garments in Malaysia can continue to use child labor.

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