Monday, November 30, 2015

U.S. must end endorsement of child, forced labor

Child and forced labor have no place in the U.S. production chain. But a law on the books allows some goods made overseas under such conditions to be imported into this country. And it's got to stop.

Malaysia's inclusion in TPP shows serious problems with deal.
As it stands, some 136 products from 74 countries brought to this nation used workers either not doing the job under their own free will or who are not old enough to consent to such work. It's allowed under a loophole in an 85-year-old measure which was originally intended to help save American jobs in industries such as farming during the Great Depression by placing tariffs on international goods.

According to a Bureau of International Labor Affairs report, goods ranging from alcohol to vanilla are part of the list. India tops the list in the number of goods made by forced or child labor. But every year there are additions, and the most recent document shows that electronics and palm oil made in Malaysia have just been added.

While other nations also produced goods added to this auspicious list last year, the inclusion of the above Pacific Rim nation is significant because it also happens to be one of the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations. This is a trade pact, mind you, that is supposed to ensure more fair labor standards for workers.

Earlier this year, Malaysia's treatment of workers came under fire because of the practice of human trafficking in the country. Many took issue with a U.S. State Department report that upgraded the nation's status on the issue, saying it was influenced by the country's participation in the TPP.

As the holiday season enters full swing, it is imperative that the U.S. clamp down on the importation of such overseas products. It's not fair nor just to those making them and it's not good for America as a whole to continue purchasing them. Surely it would be better to buy gifts made right here at home.

The U.S. needs to lead on labor issues, not turn a blind eye towards injustice.