The Trump administration will make combating human trafficking a priority, Ivanka Trump said on Tuesday, as the U.S. downgrades China’s ranking for not doing more to stop trafficking.
“The stories of those we honor today demonstrate why combatting this crime here in the United States as well as around the world, is in both our moral and strategic interests,” Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser, said at a ceremony at the State Department for the unveiling of its annual human trafficking report. She was joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The congressionally mandated 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report provides a glimpse at how the Trump administration will promote human rights abroad. The report has served as a diplomatic tool for many as the U.S. engages with foreign governments to end human trafficking.
“Ending human trafficking is a major foreign policy priority of the Trump administration,” Ivanka Trump said.
The report places countries in three tiers. Tier 3, the lowest ranking, includes countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and are not making notable efforts to do so.
China was downgraded to the Tier 3 category, Tillerson noted.
“[China] has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson cited China’s inaction in cracking down on North Korean forced labor as an important part of the country’s downgrade.
“The North Korean regime receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the fruits of forced labor,” Tillerson said.
China joins Russia and Syria as several other countries in the Tier 3 category.
Controversy surrounded a part of report that lists countries who have used child soldiers. The 2017 report dropped Iraq and Burma, also known as Myanmar, from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act List. Reuters reported Saturday that Tillerson had overruled State Department officials who recommended the two countries stay and that Afghanistan be added to the list. The 2017 list does not include Afghanistan.
Human rights advocates slammed the 2017 report, questioning its objectivity.
“Congress should be asking tough questions about the State Department’s questionable decisions to upgrade several countries with poor records on trafficking,” said John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch.
However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) praised the report.
“This year’s report is a step forward in efforts to improve the transparency and integrity of the rankings,” Corker said in a Tuesday statement. “I appreciate the Trump administration for its sincere commitment to tackling this massive problem.”