Human Trafficking from a Global Perspective – The Power of Global Trade Agreements

Problem Definition – 
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 2.4 million people in the world at any given time involved in forced labor and subjected to exploitation as a result of trafficking (ILO, 2008). Human rights violations such as human trafficking is normally addressed by social support measures. This discussion takes a look at the problem of Human Trafficking from a global perspective. Social programs and support policies that are typically put into place to mitigate, lessen, and/or treat human trafficking, such as rescue and recovery missions, are temporary bandages that do not address the systemic and wide spread issue of the human rights violations. This discussion takes a look at addressing Human Trafficking by leveraging the power of trade agreements to apply pressure to nations that are not doing their part to combat slave trafficking.

Economic Consequences of Human Trafficking – 

The Southeast Asian nation of Malaysia is notorious for its slave trade. It’s estimated that Malaysia has 2 million illegal migrant workers. The State Department’s annual human rights reports ranks Malaysia as one of the worst places on earth for slavery, a so-called “Tier 3” country, in the same category as Zimbabwe and North Korea. In 2016, The United States changed Malaysia’s tier level without actual validation of change in compliance or standards towards eliminating trafficking.
Governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain restrictions on bilateral assistance, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw non-humanitarian, non trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, certain countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. Consistent with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), governments subject to restrictions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development related assistance) from international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
These types of restrictions have the potential to impact the GDP of the offending nation.
Critique of Existing Policy Solutions – 
In the Trafficking in Persons report, released by the US department of State, countries are placed in Tiers according to their compliance and standards to eliminate trafficking with Tier 1 being “fully complaint” and Tier not compliant”. In current trade agreements, if a nation is rated as a Tier 3 country, the United States is not supposed to conduct trade deal with these “slave states”. Past administrations have been known to make modifications to the Trafficking in Person’s report to change the compliant level to allow for trades.

Alternative Approaches – 
An alternative answer to human trafficking is a policy that attacks the root cause, ends the demand for human trafficking via a international human rights education policy to implement a comprehensive human rights education program in all education systems. The financial impact would be evident in a longitudinal study

Conclusion – 
Placing a financial squeeze on countries that are not complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking applicable to the government of a country of origin, transit, or destination for a significant number of victims of severe forms of trafficking should be the most effective answer. Whenever it seems that all efforts to make an impact have been unsuccessful, the saying to “hit them where they will feel it the most” comes to mind. For these countries that are not complying, this would be in their financial systems.
Brewer, Devin. (2009). Rescue and Recovery Topical Research Digest: Human Rights and Human Trafficking. Retrieved from

Elli, Curtis. (2015). Trade agreements and modern day slavery. July 24, 2015. Retrieved from

International Labor Organization (ILO). 2008. ILO action against trafficking in human beings. Geneva: International Labor Organization. Retrieved from

Krugman, Paul, Robin Wells, Kathryn Grady. (2014). Essentials of Economics. New
York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Richelson, Sarah. (2008). Trafficking and Trade: How regional trade agreements can combat the trafficking of persons in Brazil. Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law. 25(3). Retrieved from

USDoS (2014). Trafficking in Persons Report. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved from

Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center. (2008). An Analysis of Federally Prosecuted Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) Cases since the Passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Washington, D.C.: Kevonne Small, J.D., Ph.D. William Adams, M.P.P. Colleen Owens, and Kevin Roland.

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