The US State Department placed China on its global list of the worst offenders in human trafficking on Tuesday. The country also forced labor, a move that could intensify tensions with Beijing that had lessened under President Donald Trump.
However, Trump has grown increasingly upset over China’s indecisiveness on North Korea and bilateral trade issues. It is now seeing possible trade actions against Beijing, three senior administration officials told Reuters.
Notably, Myanmar was promoted to the Tier 2 Watch List of nations making noteworthy efforts to meet minimum US standards. It was elevated from Tier 3, countries, which not complying and making no significant effort to do so. Besides, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Qatar were each upgraded to Tier 2. These are the nation that is making noteworthy efforts to comply, on the Tier 2 Watch List.
On Tier 1 comes nations that meet minimum US standards. The report suggests that China sentenced fewer sex and labor traffickers this year than in the last year. It also repatriated North Koreans without screening them for indicators of trafficking and handled most forced labor cases as administrative issues instead of criminal prosecutions.
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For the past three years, China was on the Tier 2 Watch List.
A Tier 3 rating can cause sanctions limiting access to US and global aid, but US presidents often waive such action. “China was downgraded to Tier 3 status in this year’s report in part because it has not taken serious steps to end its own complicity in trafficking, including forced laborers from North Korea that are located in China,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said as he presented the report.