Lawmakers want State briefing on trafficking report

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 29, 2015 12:16 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday for a briefing on the trafficking in persons report that was released on Monday.

In their letter, Senator Bob Corker, the committee's Republican chairman, and Senator Ben Cardin, the panel's top Democrat, asked for the briefing "to better understand" the basis for the 2015 report's upgrade of several countries, including Malaysia and Cuba.

"We recognize that U.S. policy and engagement on trafficking does not exist in a vacuum, and we appreciate the many varied and nuanced trade-offs that are necessary between competing policy issues," they wrote in the letter, which was released by their offices.

"We also believe that it is critical that the impartial reliability of the TIP Report be safeguarded and maintained if it is to have utility on this critical issue in the future," they said.

The United States took Malaysia off its list of worst offenders in human trafficking on Monday, removing a potential barrier to a signature Asia-Pacific trade pact despite opposition from human rights groups and nearly 180 U.S. lawmakers.

The U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons report also upgraded Cuba from its lowest rank for the first time since it was included in the annual report in 2003.

The United States re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba on July 1 after more than 50 years go Cold War estrangement.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)