National LGBT Organizations Demand US Stop Negotiating TPP with Brunei

For Immediate Release

June 12, 2014
Contact: Jerame Davis

National LGBT Organizations Demand US Stop Negotiating TPP with Brunei

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, several prominent national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality organizations released a joint letter to President Obama demanding that the US cease further negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement with Brunei after that country enacted a strict new penal code that targets women, LGBT people, and religious minorities.

“Brunei’s new laws are an affront to human rights and basic decency,” said Jerame Davis, interim Executive Director of Pride at Work. “The United States, and every other nation considering doing business with Brunei, should immediately cease any negotiations or consideration for that country as a trading partner. Human rights abusers don’t get preferential treatment.”

Pride at Work, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and the National Center for Transgender Equality delivered this letter to the White House demanding that the U.S. either insist that Brunei revokes this new penal code or be removed from the TPP altogether.

“The Administration has made great strides toward LGBT equality and strengthening the human rights stance of the U.S. It would be a profound backwards step in that progress if we were to ignore the egregious abuses represented by Brunei’s new laws by giving them preferential trade status,” continued Davis.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed “free trade” agreement between the U.S. and 11 other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean, including Brunei. It is poised to be the largest trade agreement in history and could account for nearly 40% of global economic activity, but has been negotiated mostly under a veil of secrecy.

The new laws in Brunei, which went into effect on May 1, will be phased in over time. When the third and final phase is implemented, gay men and lesbians, as well as those convicted of adultery, will be stoned to death for their supposed “crimes”. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights has condemned the new laws as well, pointing out they are a violation of international law.


The text of the letter is included below.


June 12, 2014

Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20500

Re: The Inclusion of the Nation of Brunei in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Dear Mr. President,

The Government of Brunei Darussalam’s recently adopted penal code threatens the human rights of minority groups including women, religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Brunei’s enactment of strict Sharia Law, which codifies into law the act of stoning its gay citizens, has placed that country outside the bounds of international standards for human rights. The undersigned are deeply concerned and ask that you direct the U.S. Trade Representative to insist that Brunei address their human rights violations before continuing further Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.

In 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech to the United Nations stating that the U.S. government would use every means at its disposal to protect the basic human rights of LGBT people around the world. Indeed, both you and Vice President Biden have spoken passionately about protecting LGBT rights around the world. It would be inconsistent with U.S. human rights policy to enter into a preferential trade agreement with a nation that so flagrantly violates the human rights of its citizens.

As former Secretary Clinton said in her speech, “In all countries, there are costs to not protecting these rights, in both gay and straight lives lost to disease and violence and the silencing of voices and views that would strengthen communities and ideas never pursued by entrepreneurs who happen to be gay. Costs are incurred whenever any group is treated as lesser or the other whether they are women, racial or religious minorities or the LGBT.”

It would be a mistake to enter into preferential trade agreements with countries that flagrantly flout human rights norms. The United States should speak with clarity. Therefore, according to applicable laws and regulations, we ask that the United States require Brunei to address its human rights violations in advance of further TPP trade negotiations.


Shane Larson
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO

Chad Griffin
Human Rights Campaign

Rev. Darlene Nipper
Deputy Executive Director
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force

Mara Keisling
Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality