Human Rights Advocates Protest Nike-Backed Deal with a Dictator Who Imposed Death By Stoning for LGBT Individuals & Women
Portland, Ore. — Human rights advocates gathered outside the World Affairs Council in protest on March 21, 2016, as the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei spoke at a Nike-sponsored event promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that includes Brunei, a country whose dictator recently decreed a law imposing death by stoning for LGBT individuals and women who commit adultery.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership fails to advance Oregon’s values in variety of ways, not the least of which is that it rewards Brunei, a country whose sultan recently decreed the death penalty for LGBT individuals and single mothers,” said Shannon, Michael, executive director of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “I understand Nike stands to make a lot of money in new tax cuts as a result of this agreement, but embracing a pact that helps prop up an LGBT-and-woman-killing tyrant is not the way to make a profit. The company has a good track record on LGBT issues domestically. If Nike cares about human rights for all people, it should distance itself from this trade proposal immediately.”
“We should not be promoting trade and relations with nation who sanction such inhumane treatment toward LGBTQ people. Honestly I expect better both from our United States government under President Obama, the World Affairs Council and Nike as well which has a long track record of supporting the LGBTQ community. All of them should and do know better.” said State Representative Rob Nosse (D – Portland), “I call on our Senators and our Congressmen and Women to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. Free trade isn’t free to workers. This passing this trade treaty will not help us to put any effective pressure on Brunei or Malaysia to treat their LGBTQ residents with more humanity.”
In 2014 — six years after the start of negotiations for the TPP — the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolikah, decreed new laws imposing death by stoning for LGBT individuals and adulterers. Death by stoning involves burying victims to their waist or chest and throwing rocks at them from a short distance until a physician pronounces them dead — a process that typically takes between 20 minutes and 2 hours after the first stone is thrown.
“The administration promotes the TPP as a so-called ‘21st Century’ trade deal, but it was negotiated with tyrants who want to return us to the middle ages,” said Shannon. “Bolikah should be ostracized for his human rights abuses, not rewarded with inclusion in a special trade deal that’s likely make the multi-billionaire even richer and more firmly entrenched in power.”
The approximately 6,000-page TPP would reduce tariffs between the United States, Brunei and other Pacific Rim nations, and includes specific chapters on financial regulations, government procurement, food safety standards, intellectual property rights and more, but fails to mention the term “human rights” even once.
In January of this year, over 1,500 progressive organizations representing women’s, LGBT, environmental, consumer, family farm, labor, faith, student, Internet freedom, human rights and other constituencies sent a joint letter to Congress warning that “the TPP elevates investor rights over human rights and democracy.”
The inclusion of Brunei is not the only issue with the TPP that has frustrated human rights advocates. An estimated one-third of the people working in Malaysia’s electronics industry are said to be the victims of human trafficking, but the administration still upgraded Malaysia’s status in its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report last year, in a move many believe was to ease that country’s entry into the TPP. At the time, Amnesty International said it showed “the U.S.’s willingness to sidestep one of the world’s worst rights crises” and Human Rights Watch said the move was “more about the TPP and U.S. trade politics than anything Malaysia did to combat human trafficking.” This upgrade came mere months after mass graves full of human trafficking victims were exposed in Malaysia.
Environmentalists have also complained that the TPP also rolls back the number of environmental treaties that countries are required to adopt, maintain and implement down to just one out of the seven required by George W. Bush-era trade agreements.
“Human needs clearly take a back seat to corporate greed in the TPP,” said D Wu, executive director of Portland Jobs with Justice. “Companies and politicians that tie themselves to this awful proposal should be ashamed of themselves.”
Photos courtesy of the Northwest Labor Press, Northwest Council of Carpenters and Oregon Fair Trade Campaign