Malaysia, Cuba, taken off human-trafficking blacklist by US

The United States released their annual Trafficking in Persons report Monday and made two significant changes. Cuba and Malaysia were removed from the human-trafficking blacklist of worst offenders and now Malaysia is eligible to join a trade pact.

In the report, the U.S. categorizes countries in three ways:  Tier 3, the worst designation a country can receive, Tier 2, which is a “watch list” and Tier 1, which indicates the country has acceptable standards.

Previously both Cuba and Malaysia were blacklisted with the Tier 3 label. They have both been upgraded to Tier 2.

“Moving Malaysia off the list of Tier 3 countries eliminates a potential roadblock to finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Malaysia,” said a report on NPR.

The list was monitored closely this year because many activists are concerned that the upgrade for Malaysia was politically motivated, and not based on enough evidence of change in the country.

“Malaysia’s ranking is contentious as an anti-trafficking amendment to legislation crucial for the deal’s eventual ratification by Congress limits the president’s ability to secure free trade agreements with countries assigned to tier 3,” said a report from NBC News.

“By upgrading Malaysia, the U.S. is selling out victims of human trafficking,” said Melysa Sperber, director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking. “It also undermines the integrity of the report and jeopardizes the credibility that has been built up over many years.”

In addition to human rights groups, are large number of U.S. legislators were displeased with the administration’s move.

“After a July 8 Reuters report on plans to upgrade Malaysia, 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 18 U.S. senators wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to keep Malaysia on Tier 3. They said there was no justification for an upgrade and questioned whether the plan was motivated by a desire to keep the country in the TPP,” said a report on Reuters.

The U.S. State department said the move was not political, and was a reflection of Malaysia’s dedication to beefing up their anti-trafficking laws.

[National Public Radio] [NBC News] [Reuters] [Image via Reuters]