Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PC(USA) signs on the letter expressing concerns over "Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015"


To: Conferees to H.R. 644, the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015”

CC: All Members of Congress

Dear Members of the Customs Conference Committee:

As faith-based organizations and religious bodies with a presence in the United States and in countries overseas, we write you today to express deep moral concerns related to H.R. 644, the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015” (also referred to as the Customs bill), particularly the version that passed in the House.

While we speak from unique traditions, we share the common values that uphold the human dignity and worth of all people, protect God’s creation, and lead us to serve vulnerable populations such as subsistence farmers, workers of all conditions, the elderly, and children.

Based on these shared values, we respectfully ask you to reject the amendments to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) law that are contemplated in Section 912 of the House version of H.R. 644. Below are a few of our concerns:

· Human trafficking – The discovery of hidden graves of human trafficking victims in
Malaysia and the lack of action from the Malaysian government in addressing this issue is horrific. We should not give privileged access to the U.S. market to countries that condone trafficking and the violation of human dignity. The House version of H.R. 644 aims to weaken the “No Fast Track for Human Traffickers” amendment to TPA proposed by Senator Menendez that passed the House and Senate and was signed into law. We ask you to reject any change or addition to the Menendez amendment in order to ensure that trade agreements do not foster, promote, or condone the scourge of modern day slavery.
Furthermore, we understand that the State Department may “upgrade” Malaysia’s designation from a “Tier 3” to a “Tier 2” status in its annual human trafficking (TIP) report to be released next week. This “upgrade” would ignore the experiences of trafficking survivors and victims, the slow pace of convictions, and the recent discovery of the mass graves. This confounding decision undermines the integrity of the TIP report and sets a disturbing precedent for trade agreements with other “Tier 3” designated countries. We urge Members of Congress to pressure the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office to resist this political pressure and keep Malaysia’s “Tier 3” designation in its upcoming report.

· Climate change – Pope Francis and faith leaders of other major religious traditions have called for moral action on climate change. The House Customs bill included an amendment to the TPA’s negotiating objectives that would undermine efforts to address global climate change. As the world negotiates a climate agreement to protect impoverished and vulnerable communities and ecosystems from climate change, the United States must demonstrate moral leadership.

We know that people in poverty, the elderly, and children both in the United States and in developing nations already feel the impacts of climate change such as water and food scarcity, super-storms and other extreme weather events that cause displacement and even death. We ask you to reject the climate change amendment in the House version of the bill.

· Immigration – Welcoming our immigrant sisters and brothers and promoting just and humane immigration reform is a key priority for our community. The House Customs bill includes an amendment to TPA’s negotiating objectives meant to restrict trade policies from allowing for better immigration policies. We ask you to reject the immigration amendment in the House version of the bill.

We encourage you to consider how these changes to the TPA law would affect the lives of the most impoverished communities and God’s earth as you work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Customs bill. We urge you to reject the amendments to TPA that are contemplated in Section 912 of the House version of the Customs bill and to preserve without alteration the Menendez amendment on “No Fast Track for Human Traffickers.”


Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Holy Cross International Justice Office
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Medical Mission Sisters, Alliance for Justice
NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment is a group committed to asserting a stronger presence of communities of faith in public policy discussions on trade and investment. 

Contact Chloe Schwabe (Chair) at 202-841-1780 or