Will TPP Set Back LGBT Rights?

Dave Johnson

Should the U.S. enter into special trade relationships with countries that violate basic principles of human dignity? Will our country prioritize people, human rights, and morality — or corporate profits? Pride@Work hopes our country will prioritize human rights in upcoming trade agreements.

The immediate question is whether Malaysia, whose leader has vowed to oppose equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, will nonetheless be given a pass as one of the nations included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

A Massive Trade Agreement That Is Still Secret

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive trade agreement that is being negotiated in secret. From leaks, we know that the TPP will allow corporations to overrule the laws and regulations of the countries involved if those countries try to interfere with corporate profits.

The TPP currently covers the U.S. and 11 other countries, but is a “docking agreement” that allows other countries to join later. It is being pitched as “writing the rules of trade for the 21st century.” So it is extremely important that we get it right before we sign over our country’s ability to make its own laws and regulations.

Obama Administration: LGBT Rights Are Human Rights

Pride@Work is an organization that represents LGBT union members and their allies. They are asking the Obama administration to make sure that TPP lives up to administration statements that LGBT rights are basic human rights.

In 2011 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that, ‘Gay Rights Are Human Rights, And Human Rights Are Gay Rights’, saying:

“Like being a woman, like being a racial religious tribal or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are gay rights.”

“Some believe homosexuality is a Western phenomenon… but gay people belong to every society in the world…. Being gay is not a Western invention, it is a human reality.”

“Our commitment to protect the freedom of religion and defend LGBT people come from a common source… Human rights are universal and cut across all religions and cultures.”

“To LGBT men and women worldwide: Wherever you live and whatever your circumstances… please know that you are not alone.”

“Those who advocate for expanding the circle of human rights were and are on the right side of history, and history honors them… We are called once more to make real the words of the universal declaration. Let us be on the right side of history.”

This is a strong statement. Will the Obama administration honor this statement when negotiating TPP? There are indications that they might not.

Slavery And TPP

The U.S. Congress prohibited the U.S. from entering into trade agreements with countries that are involved in human trafficking (slavery) when it passed “fast track” legislation earlier this year. To keep the TPP viable, the State Department changed its designation of Malaysia as a country involved in slavery, making that problem disappear.

In August, I discussed this on Richard Eskow’s radio show The Zero Hour:

Malaysia and LGBT Rights

Malaysia also does not respect LGBT rights. The Washington Blade recently reported, “Malaysian prime minister: Government will not defend LGBT rights”:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak this week said his country’s government will not defend LGBT rights and other issues that are not within the “context of Islam.”

“Although universal human rights have been defined, we still define human rights in the country in the context of Islam and the syariah (Sharia law),” said Najib on Aug. 18, according to the Malay Mail. “And even if we cannot defend human rights at an international level, we must defend it in the Islamic context.”

Malaysia is a TPP country. The U.S. rigged Malaysia’s status as a human-trafficking country to keep it in TPP. Jerame Davis, Pride@Work‘s Executive Director, is concerned that this means the Obama administration will throw LGBT rights under the bus, too. Davis said:

“Fixing the ranking to match the desired outcome, if true, undermines our country’s credibility on many other human rights issues. That very much includes the President’s stated goals with regard to LGBT equality internationally. Malaysia’s terrible record on LGBT rights is only surpassed by Brunei’s among TPP countries.”

Will the U.S. throw LGBT rights under the bus the way it threw the fight against slavery under the bus, so that corporations can get TPP? We will have to wait and see.

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