For Immediate Release: January 27, 2015
Contact: Jerame Davis
Pride at Work Addresses US Trade Representative’s Continued Lack of Clarity on Brunei’s Continued Inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on trade, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) questioned U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on the issue of LGBT human rights abuses in Brunei and that country’s continued inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Proponents of the TPP, in a disturbing pattern repeated today by Ambassador Froman, still have no clear answers on why Brunei continues to be included, despite the adoption of a new penal code that imposes death by stoning on gays and lesbians in that country.
Video of the exchange can be seen here: http://youtu.be/4PQ5Yc8CevE
“Assurances from Ambassador Froman that the TPP has provided opportunities to engage Brunei on human rights and that the country’s leaders have been duly informed of their human rights obligations are simply not enough for LGBT Americans to feel relieved that Brunei is poised to become a privileged trading partner with the United States,” remarked Jerame Davis, Pride at Work’s Executive Director. “Just last month, President Obama set a clear precedent for using trade to further our human rights priorities around the world when Gambia was removed from a trade agreement over their policy of abuse and imprisonment of LGBT people.”
Further to that point, Senator Cardin made a very strong argument for the connection between trade policy and human rights as part of his questioning of Ambassador Froman:
“And for those who are concerned, as I know some of my colleagues are, about mixing trade and human rights, let me just remind you that it was U.S. leadership in trade that helped change the apartheid government in South Africa. It was U.S. leadership that spoke to the Soviet Union and their human rights on immigration through Jackson Vanick that brought about change. It is critically important if we are going to see change in Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and other countries that do not have that record that we use this opportunity to achieve those objectives.”
In June, Pride at Work authored a letter, co-signed by the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, to President Obama demanding Brunei’s removal from TPP for their adoption of a new penal code that imposes death by stoning on gays and lesbians in that country. To date, neither the President nor any representative of his Administration has responded to the letter despite their continued efforts to point to progress on equality as part of his presidential legacy.
“‘Trust us’ is not the basis of sound trade policy nor an appropriate means of advancing human rights,” said Davis. “If the President is not willing to remove Brunei from the TPP, then Congress must do so. And the only way we can be sure that happens is if Congress refuses to grant the President Fast Track trade promotion authority on trade. The United States is the largest economy in the world and we should not reward countries that abuse the human rights of LGBT people with a trade agreement that would establish them as a privileged trading partner.
“We appreciate Senator Cardin’s leadership in pressing Ambassador Froman on this issue,” concluded Davis.