Accusations that the State Department watered down its report on human trafficking for political reasons threaten to undermine the agency’s credibility and promotion of human rights, according to former department officials...

...In the case of Malaysia, a continued Tier 3 ranking might have jeopardized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a significant trade deal involving the United States and several other Asian countries that the Obama administration views as a potential legacy achievement. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, included an amendment in the trade promotion authority law for the TPP that bars congressional review of any trade deal with a Tier 3 country.

Malaysian authorities announced in May that they had discovered dozens of graves for regional migrants who were captured by gangs of human traffickers, leading to heightened criticism of the government’s failure to address the problem. Forced labor also reportedly continues in the country’s palm oil, construction, and electronics industries.

Menendez said in a statement that if the allegations are substantiated, it will prove that “the State Department’s trafficking report has been blatantly and intentionally politicized.”

“As I’ve said many times, our nation’s commitment to fighting the scourge of human trafficking should remain above politics,” he said. “I know many of my Senate colleagues share my outrage and we will demand a full accounting of this process.”

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