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Senator Harry Reid: Yes to More Free Trade, But No to Forced Labor

July, 17 2006 Share

Administration Blocks Slave Labor Prohibition in Free Trade Agreement

In May, following the release of the NLC's report, "U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement Descends into Human Trafficking and Involuntary Servitude," - the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved an amendment to the pending U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement that would "prohibit goods made with slave labor, forced labor or labor from human trafficking from receiving preferential duty-free access" to the U.S. market under the U.S.-Oman FTA.

The Bust Administration objected and stripped the slave labor prohibition from the U.S.-Oman FTA legislation before sending it to Congress.

Below is Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's letter to the Wall Street Journal.

Click here to read about other efforts in the legislature to prohibit the sale or import of goods that result from human trafficking or slave labor.

Click here to go to main Jordan Campagin page.

 

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL (Weekend Edition)

July 15, 2006

 

Yes to More Free Trade, But No to Forced Labor

Your July 11 editorial "Free Trade and Security" on the Oman free trade agreement failed to inform your readers of a crucial fact driving the opposition of many Democrats to the Oman FTA legislation. During consideration of the legislation, the Finance Committee unanimously approved an amendment offered by Sen. Kent Conrad that would have prohibited goods made with slave labor, forced labor or labor from human trafficking from receiving the preferential duty free access under the agreement. The Bush administration stripped this amendment against forced labor out of the legislation before sending it to Congress.

The Conrad amendment responded to a situation that has arisen in Jordan where workers from poor countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan have been flown in, had their passports taken away, forced to work obscene hours, paid illegally-low wages, if at all, and in many cases subjected to physical violence and intimidation. To help explain why the administration stripped out the anti-forced labor amendment, the U.S. Trade Representative's office claimed that there was no awareness of evidence suggesting that goods are produced in Oman using slave labor or with the benefit of human trafficking. Apparently, that office had not read the 2006 State Department annual report on human trafficking, which stated that Oman is a destination country for men and women primarily from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India who migrate willingly, but may subsequently become victims of trafficking when subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude as laborers. State put Oman on a Watch List for human trafficking because of a lack of evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in people over the past year.

The details of these agreements do matter and Democrats believe promoting more open trade and eliminating forced labor should not be viewed as mutually exclusive goals by this administration.

 

Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.)

Senate Democratic Leader

Washington