I will like do a short report on the issue of the TPPA and the current legal wranglings in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
In 2014, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) downgraded Malaysia to a Tier 3 status. This is the lowest possible standard which essentially means that the Malaysian government is not doing anything to combat modern slavery, has no basic anti-human trafficking standards and inadequate victim assistance program. How serious is this classification? It is very serious, America can, if it wants to, impose sanctions on a Tier-3 nation.
This is a major problem to TPPA, because America cannot “morally” negotiate a trade pact with a Tier-3 nation.
So the Obama and the Najib administrations probably got together and worked out a plan to improve Malaysia’s standing on the matter. The big showcase was the debated Anti-human trafficking bill in Parliament, just 2 weeks ago. This initiative is supposed to enable the US to “brush over the issue and demonstrate that Najib is actually serious about the human trafficking problem, hence keep Malaysia in the TPPA negotiating table.
But then the Rohingya boat people story broke at the same time. To make things worse, Najib failed to act swiftly and decisively despite the eyes of the world on him. Then things got much worse as news of the 139 graves in Perlis broke.
In the meantime, the US again scrambled to help keep Malaysia on the TPPA table where it wanted to produce a watered-down clause on slavery. However last Friday, that watered-down provision was NOT included in the bill for fast-track.
Today, Senator Menendez who worked on the watered-down bill (that did not pass) had a big change of heart and said:
“With those images fresh in our minds, with new revelations of the scope of the trafficking problem in Malaysia and other countries coming every day, now is the time for our colleagues in the House to add their voice to a clear statement of bipartisan American values: no fast track for human traffickers,”.
So there you have it. Malaysia now faces the prospect of being ingloriously booted out of the TPPA negotiations on slavery grounds.
The ball is now back to the US House of Representatives where they may yet try to rescue Najib’s TPPA dreams. Alternatively, the Obama government may magically taichi Malaysia back into Tier-2 status.
The irony is not lost that Obama, representing the great hope of the Black community in America, of which the large majority are descendants of slaves, is still backing his golf buddy on a slavery issue.