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Sen. Menendez introduces labor rights, anti-trafficking legislation

The two bills introduced Tuesday by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., would terminate Generalized System of Preferences benefits for countries that do not meet “minimum standards” for the elimination of human trafficking and certain labor standards.

   Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., introduced two pieces of legislation Tuesday to terminate Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits for countries that do not meet “minimum standards” for the elimination of human trafficking and certain labor standards.
   One bill, the Anti-Trafficking Trade Act, would require the President to suspend for one year the GSP benefits of any country that is listed as a “Tier 3” country on the State Department’s annual report on trafficking in persons in other nations.
   The President would have to take action no later than 90 days after the State Department’s submission of the report to Congress.
   The Anti-Trafficking Trade Act would also require the President to refrain from designating any Tier 3 country as GSP-eligible for one year following the date that’s 90 days after the congressional submission of the report.
   Per the report, Tier 3 denotes countries that present the highest risk of human trafficking.
   The legislation would allow the President to waive the requirement for GSP blockage if the President, within the 90-day period, submits to appropriate congressional committees a letter stating the government of the Tier 3 country “has taken concrete actions” to implement the “principal recommendations” outlined in the State Department’s report.
   In order to get a waiver, the President’s letter must accompany credible evidence, including “copies of relevant laws or regulations adopted or modified, and any enforcement actions taken, by that country, where appropriate,” the bill says.
   However, the waiver authority would not be allowed to continue for longer than a year.
   During a hearing Wednesday, Menendez cited past instances of “politicization” of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report in the trade context.
   Lawmakers, including Democrats, had criticized an Obama administration decision to bump up Malaysia from its previous Tier 3 ranking to Tier 2 in its 2016 report, as the action legally allowed that administration to continue Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
   Meanwhile, the Labor Rights for Development Act, which is the other bill introduced by Sen. Menendez, would require the President to suspend GSP benefits for countries found not to meet certain International Labor Organization rights, including freedom of association, effective recognition of collective bargaining rights, and elimination of forced labor.
   The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative didn’t comment on its level of support for the bills.

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