The article from eight US ambassadors on the LGBT community and the Trans Pacific Partnership reiterated the government’s support for human rights, yet raised concerns on it’s optimism of the TPP’s projected outcomes.
As a member of the LGBT community, I am keenly interested in the pursuit of rights and protections for this community at home and overseas by the United States government. The Obama administration has certainly stood as the most pro-LGBT in American history and has shown it’s commitments to fulfilling its goals in this respect.
Lifting the LGBT community out of poor conditions certainly requires a wide range of actions, from the promotion of human rights abroad to encouraging NGOs and societies to take initiative in shaping their nation. Trade can play a key component in this development as it strengthens and betters involved countries and gives the tools to individuals and groups to actively make meaningful change.
However, the administration’s push for implementing the Trans Pacific Partnership is a step backwards in terms of progress on human rights.
There has been a lack of transparency of TPP rules and regulations, and full text of the trade plan are hidden from the general public. Much of the information that is accessible on the TPP has been released due to leaks rather than the government’s willingness to reveal the agreement to the public. Senators, unions, NGOs, and various groups have strongly objected to the TPP and have demanded a comprehensive review and debate before any sort of advancement can be made. And these very same groups have expressed discomfort due to this lack of transparency or any concrete details on the TPP’s development.
The TPP also includes an international tribune, a feature of the trade agreement leaked to the public. Foreign firms could appeal federal regulations, as well as working conditions and any other obstacle these corporations deem a hindrance to business. Such a body has the potential to work against LGBT workers in foreign countries who already face widespread discrimination, poverty, and inequality.
Brunei is one of the member states under the TPP and has recently strengthened anti-LGBT laws. The Sultan has repeatedly expressed support for strict interpretations of Islamic law to punish LGBT members and those perceived as such with death by stoning. The status on Brunei’s anti-LGBT laws has been raised as a concern for those opposed to the TPP and future agreements with the nation. There is a lack of human rights enforcement in the treaty and there’s no explicit guarantee from the White House that the TPP will effectively make an impact on Brunei’s laws or any other nation for that matter.
If the government is working in the interest of the well being of the LGBT community and the continuing development of human rights overseas, it cannot hide behind excuses that shroud the development and negotiations of the TPP. Should the government chose to continue with the TPP, it needs to make revisions or enforce strong protections for the LGBT community in foreign nations.
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