WASHINGTON, April 24 A U.S. trade official said
on Friday that the government is looking at a proposed
human-trafficking amendment to trade legislation that could
affect a still unfinished Pacific trade pact.
The amendment, approved by the Senate Finance Committee on
Wednesday, would disqualify trade deals with countries deemed
soft on human trafficking from special procedures designed to
speed their passage through Congress.
"We are looking at the language that passed," U.S. Trade
Representative Michael Froman said on Friday, speaking at an
Export Import Bank conference in Washington.
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch said
if the change made it into the final version of the bill, it
could exclude the whole Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade
pact from streamlined treatment. The TPP is nearly complete.
"It's a classic poison pill," he said.
The problem arises because the 2014 list of
human-trafficking offenders includes Malaysia, a partner in the
"Human trafficking is a very serious issue," said Froman,
"and we want to make sure that through the kind of engagements
we have, through our trade dialogue, that we are able to
encourage countries to take on further actions that they need to
The USTR is working with the Department of Labor and the
State Department, which is due to publish its next annual report
on human trafficking in June, to consider the amendment drafted
by Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.
The amendment, which passed the Senate Finance Committee on
a 16-10 vote on Wednesday night with support from both parties,
could still be knocked out or amended further down the
The House of Representatives panel, which is working on a
companion fast-track bill, excluded the change from its version
of the bill, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan
said the change would make it very difficult for the
administration in negotiating the TPP accord.
(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Ted Botha)