The House of Representatives will quickly get down to unfinished business once it returns from the holiday recess: defending trading partners that engage in slavery.
The House, according to sources familiar with trade deal negotiations, plans to strip Senate language from fast-track legislation that would ban countries that are the worst human-trafficking and forced-labor offenders from being part of big trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The provision will be removed by House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) through a customs bill that will come to the floor after the fast-track bill, sources familiar with the planning told The Huffington Post.
On the eve of the holiday recess last week, the Senate passed legislation giving President Barack Obama fast-track authority to shepherd trade deals through Congress. The anti-slavery provision was, for the White House and other backers of the deal, an unwelcome rider. While the provision seems like a no-brainer (who supports slavery in 2015?), the White House wants it gone.
If the provision stays, one of the 12 countries in the deal, Malaysia, would be forced out due to its pattern of countenancing what amounts to slavery -- a human rights violation so extreme it calls into question how far civilization has advanced over the past several centuries. Malaysia is designated as a tier 3 nation by the State Department, the worst ranking for a country that fails to take action against human trafficking. For American labor, slavery represents unfair wage competition, as it's impossible for companies to compete with no-cost, forced labor. But for the White House, Malaysia is integral to the deal, not just because of the size of its economy, but because of its control over the Strait of Malacca, a key shipping corridor.
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