February 20, 2015 at 12:20 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT members of Congress question U.S. trade agreement

Ebola, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT members of Congress have urged President Obama to reconsider the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in a pan-Pacific trade agreement because of their LGBT rights records. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT members of Congress on Wednesday urged the White House to reconsider its decision to allow two countries with anti-gay rights records to join a U.S.-led pan-Pacific trade agreement.

U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in a letter to President Obama sought “clarification on the inclusion of” Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They specifically referenced the administration’s decision late last year to drop Gambia from a duty-free trade program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to access U.S. markets amid growing concerns over the country’s LGBT crackdown and other human rights abuses.

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations,” wrote the lawmakers.

Homosexuality punishable by death under new Brunei legal code

Brunei and Malaysia — along with Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — are the 12 countries that would join the TPP.

Brunei last year began to implement a new legal code based on Sharia law that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning them to death.

Malaysia’s highest court earlier this month upheld former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction under the country’s anti-sodomy law. Homosexuality remains illegal in neighboring Singapore and more than 70 other nations.

Secretary of State John Kerry in December swore in gay U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius.

Pocan, Takano, Cicilline, Maloney and Sinema in their letter to Obama noted that more than 100 members of Congress last year wrote to the White House “urging action be taken to address” human rights abuses in Brunei and Malaysia before moving forward with the TPP.

“To our knowledge, no progress has been made on that front,” they wrote on Wednesday. “Brunei continues to move forward with full implementation of a strict penal code mandating the stoning to death of LGBT citizens; similarly, Malaysia has not taken action to end its persecution of LGBT individuals. Despite these abuses, the administration continues to include them in negotiations around TPP and lists them as intended signatories to the trade agreement.”

The lawmakers in their Wednesday letter further urged the Obama administration to “bring consistency” to its “foreign and trade policy.”

“The LGBT community looks to your administration to fight for human rights across the globe,” they wrote. “We hope you will continue this record of equality by removing Brunei and Malaysia from the TPP if they neglect to address these abuses.”

Polis writes separate letter to Obama over trade agreement

Gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) did not sign onto his colleagues’ letter, but the Colorado Democrat on Thursday noted his own concerns over the TPP in a separate correspondence to Obama.

Polis did not urge the White House to remove Brunei and Malaysia from the trade agreement over their respective LGBT rights records. He nevertheless urged the Obama administration to express “in no uncertain terms” to the Bruneian and Malaysian governments during the TPP negotiations that “their violations of basic human rights must end.”

“The diplomatic and economic power of the United States makes us uniquely positioned to advocate for and effect change on behalf of individuals who are persecuted at the hands of other governments,” wrote Polis. “In keeping with this responsibility, I encourage you to use every tool available to you to bring an end to ongoing human rights abuses in Brunei and Malaysia, including the present Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.”

Trade agreement ‘negotiated in secret’

Labor and LGBT advocacy groups remain highly critical of the TPP.

Pride at Work Co-President Shane Larson, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, National LGBTQ Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling last June urged the White House to “require Brunei to address its human rights violations in advance of further” negotiations around the trade agreement.

Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, on Thursday told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview the TPP would also adversely impact the availability of affordable antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV in the countries that join it.

He noted the trade agreement has been “negotiated in secret, behind closed doors.” Davis further pointed out the president would also have the ability to fast track the TPP through Congress without any debate.

“I’m really glad that the LGBT elected members of Congress are stepping up and voicing their concerns about Brunei and Malaysia to be included in the TPP,” Davis told the Blade.

Davis criticized Polis’ position in spite of his Thursday letter to Obama.

“A letter to the president expressing concern is cover to say he’s done something, it’s not actually using the power of his office to stand up for LGBT people being stoned to death in Brunei,” Davis told the Blade. “He’s asking the president to use his powers, but Polis isn’t using the full breadth of his own power here, so why would the president take him seriously?”

Trade agreement not ‘an equal economic partnership

Thilaga Sulathireh, founder of Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian advocacy group, told the Blade in an e-mail her organization’s members “appreciate the concerns” that LGBT members of Congress have raised over the TPP. She added they also “welcome their call to review Malaysia and Brunei’s inclusion” in the agreement because “both countries have very appalling and dire track records on human rights.”

Sulathireh, like Davis, expressed concern over the secrecy of the negotiations around the TPP and the Obama administration’s plans to fast track it through Congress.

“We do not feel that the TPP is an equal economic partnership,” Sulathireh told the Blade.

John Fluharty, the gay executive director of the Delaware Republican Party, previously worked in Malaysia for a pro-democracy non-profit organization.

He highlighted Anwar’s conviction on sodomy charges as he discussed the country’s LGBT rights record with the Blade on Thursday. Fluharty also noted that Malaysian security officials placed him under surveillance while he worked in the country.

“In addition, I found it very disturbing that many of my Malaysian friends who are impacted by issues related to HIV/AIDS felt unsafe seeking medial treatment for fear action by their own government,” he told the Blade. “It is a very sad state of affairs.”

Jeff Tiller, a spokesperson for the White House, on Thursday told the Blade the administration during meetings with senior Bruneian government officials has “made clear that protecting human rights — including the rights LGBT individuals, women and religious minorities — is a core U.S. value and a foreign policy priority.” He added the White House has also stressed that Brunei “should abide by its international human rights obligations and commitments.”

“We will continue to engage closely with Brunei to address this issue, even as we work to conclude TPP,” said Tiller.

Tiller did not provide the Blade with a timeline as to when a deal on the trade agreement may be reached.

The Associated Press on Thursday reported the TPP will likely go before Congress this spring.

Jared Polis letter to President Obama on Trans-Pacific Partnership

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

2 Comments
  • Excellent work by Rep. Pocan and the others. I hope Rep. Polis gets on board with this important LGBT rights issue.

  • PROTECTING the RIGHTS of some UNBORN GAYS.

    How to Discourage Corporate 'USA', et al, 'Need' to FLEECE NON-Shareholders & Globally Expand & Dilute $17+ Trillion DEBT; SECRET TTIP, TPP, et al, GLOBALIZES WALL ST.'s Unregulated Transgressions? TOO Big, BigGER, BIGGEST for 'Arranged' Failures?

    TPP, CETA, TTIP, Global Treaties; Corporate 'USA' & SHAREHOLDERS Secretly Using Tax Dollars to Implement SECRET Suing Machine to HAMMER Non Shareholders. Time to Re-Set the 'Game' ?

    Will corp. 'USA', et al, & Feds to Prepay $Billions for All 'Trade' Treaty/'Arrangements', et al, Secret ('Death-Star-Chamber) Tribunals' Punitive Damages to Protect Home State's Taxpayers? Other States , Municipalities, et al, "…(we) need to control corp. USA's 'Contributions'".

    Undemocratic, Higher Taxes & More Cuts to Services to Pay Secret Penalties; NON Shareholders Have to Pay corporates USA, Japan, Canada, et al, & their SHAREHOLDERS.
    How Much are You Selling your Right to Sue the Global Corporate Economy for?

    It will be good for, not only the NON shareholders of the enterprises that can be generated by the on-going global 'cooperation' of corporate treaties, agreements, partnerships, et al, including the Trans Pacific Partnership, the EU – Canada CETA, the China – Canada Investment Treaty, et al,
    but,
    for the potential shareholders, as well,
    who are quite interested to know if President Xi Jinping (China) will support Russia as a co-member of B.R.I.C.S. when President Putin uses his potential role as 'The White Knight'.

    And, while President Putin's potential support as 'The WHITE KNIGHT' in the development of the CETAgreement, et al, litigation below can dramatically off-set the hundreds of billions of dollars due to the present & future sanctions leveled by American led, et al, corporations & financial institutions via their governments' signing their global corporate economic treaties/'arrangements',
    and the potential for making trillions of dollars for the Russian economy over the next 30 – 40 years & beyond,
    are the citizens (SHAREHOLDERS & NON shareholders) of Germany & JAPAN just being prudent in wanting to wait for the outcome of:
    1) The Submission to The SUPREME COURT of CANADA & the highest court in Germany, et al, to make their findings regarding 'The Submission':
    'The SHAREHOLDERS & Corporations of AMERICA, CHINA, Japan, Germany, Canada, et al
    v
    the harmless Canadian NON shareholders, both; Native & non Native, et al'?
    (see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com)
    and

    2) 'The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter; To Sue, or, Be Sued?'
    (see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com)

    Have the federal representatives of the nations that are the potential signatories of CETA, TPP, et al, willingly provided the NON shareholders of China, Canada, Europe, the Trans Pacific nations, et al, with the aforementioned information? Are the federal representatives, et al, depriving the NON shareholders of Canada, et al, of the due diligence information that enables the family of the NON shareholders of Canada, et al, to make informed decisions regarding their financial planning?

    And, would a reasonable person conclude by a preponderance of the evidence, &/or, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these documents, et al, demonstrate that the SHAREHOLDERS of AMERICA, CANADA , the EU & Trans Pacific nations, et al, really do not care which NON shareholders pay them the punitive penalties, etc., by way of their secret ('Death-Star Chamber') TRIBUNALS, as long as its not the SHAREHOLDERS who pay & not their corporations regardless of which country the corporations:
    1) operating from,
    2) maintain their headquarters,
    3) use to do their cyber banking, accounting, 'taxation', etc.
    &
    4) et al?

    And, re; the CHINA – Canada Investment Treaty (C-CIT), is it understandable why the 'coveted' Hong Kong investor & his associates are 'concerned'with the aforementioned findings of The SUPREME COURT of CANADA, et al, & the effects of the potential findings, et al, on the EU, AMERICA, the Trans Pacific nations, et al, treaties with CHINA, et al?

    In regard to arms sales (and other 'contentious' products & services) ; how about the sale of arms (non nuclear) in general in regard to the 'trade' treaties that are continuing to be secretly negotiated and how will the Tribunals, both; B.R.I.C.S. & non BRICS, adjudicate, decide & penalize the NON SHAREHOLDERS for the sale of legitimate, semi- legitimate & 'illegal' sales of arms within the signatories nations & the those of others, &/or, unaligned? Of particular, interest is China, which does have an treaty with Canada, which puts China 'at odds' with other arms manufacturing & nuclear powers that it (China) does not have any 'arrangements' with.
    Are these types of questions that your politicians & the corporate lobbyists calls 'forget-me-nots' ('Buyer Beware') that will be (maybe) worked out after the fast tracked signatures are obtained?

    And, what do you think is the significance of the line in The Submission to The Supreme Court of Canada '…And, lest one forgets that the revelation of the present perilous international treaties/'arrangements' began with the regard for the rights of Native Canadians as per the Treaties/'arrangements' that corporate Canada & the Government of Canada have 'foisted' upon Native Canadians…'? What are the various ways that this line will cost the SHAREHOLDERS, et al?

    On the other hand, it may be worth repeating yet again,
    'What the TREATY of VERSAILLES was to the 20th century PALES in COMPARISON to the TPP, CETA, C-CIT, NAFTA, et al, in the 21st'.

    And, how will YOUR submission to YOUR highest court IMPROVE upon The Submission that is presently before The Supreme Court of Canada?

    David E.H. Smith
    – Researcher
    – 'Qui tam…'
    ******
    Please consider sharing the enclosed information & questions with 10 members of your family, friends, associates in order that they can use the due diligence info to make more informed decision about their families' financial planning, & then they can share it with 10 others…
    ******
    For more Information & Questions re; The Relationship between Human (Nature) Rights & Economics by way of the C-CI Treaty, the CET Agreement, TPP, et al, and The WAD Accord
    &
    List of RECENT ARTICLES, LETTERS & NOTIFICATIONS by DEHS,
    see; davidehsmith.wordpress.com

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