An upgrade of Malaysia in the US government’s annual report on human trafficking paves the way for the Southeast Asia nation to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

Malaysia is one of the 12 nations involved in the negotiations, but legislation approved by the US Congress in June prohibits US trade deals with countries on the Tier 3 list of countries rated the worst offenders for human trafficking.

The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report released yesterday (27 July) upgraded Malaysia to Tier 2 Watch List from the lowest Tier 3 ranking.

US lawmakers have questioned whether the upgrade was a bid to keep Malaysia in the TPP.

The US report says that while Malaysia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so.

The government has strengthened its anti-trafficking law and addressed concerns raised in previous Trafficking in Persons Reports, and more than doubled the number of trafficking investigations – but only convicted three traffickers for forced labour and one for passport retention in 2014.

Malaysia is a small, but increasingly important, apparel sourcing destination as the migration to lower-cost production continues.

Separately, the decision by the US to upgrade Uzbekistan in its annual report on human trafficking has been slammed by human rights groups. Click on the following link to read more: US upgrades Uzbekistan despite cotton sector concerns.