Updated January 7, 2019
Human Trafficking and Foreign Policy: An Introduction
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking (also known as trafficking in persons)
refers to the subjection of men, women, or children to
exploitative conditions that may be tantamount to modernday slavery. From a foreign policy perspective, human
trafficking can be viewed as a human rights problem, a
manifestation of transnational organized crime, and a
violation of core international labor standards. Human
trafficking also raises economic development, international
migration, and global governance and security issues, and
disproportionately victimizes vulnerable populations.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA,
Division A of P.L. 106-386; 22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.) defined
“severe forms of trafficking in persons” to include sex
trafficking induced by force, fraud, or coercion, child sex
trafficking (under 18 years of age), and forced labor
trafficking. The latter involves the recruitment, harboring,
transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person—induced
by force, fraud, or coercion—for the purpose of subjecting
that person, including a child, to involuntary servitude,
peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The recruitment and use of a “child soldier,” defined in the
Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CSPA, Title IV of
the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act of 2008; 22 U.S.C. 2370c et seq.), is
also a form of human trafficking.
How has Congress responded?
Congress has long been engaged on trafficking-related
issues. For nearly two decades, the cornerstone legislative
vehicle to address international human trafficking has been
the TVPA, as amended and reauthorized in 2003 (P.L. 108193), 2005 (P.L. 109-164), 2008 (P.L. 110-457), and 2013
(P.L. 113-4). Most recently, the 115th Congress passed the
Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and
Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 2200).
Among other key provisions, the TVPA established a
ranking system for measuring government efforts to
eliminate human trafficking—and prohibits certain types of
U.S. foreign assistance to the worst-ranked countries. The
TVPA also defines the role and mandate of the Secretary of
State to combat human trafficking and requires the State
Department to annually publish reports on “trafficking in
persons” (known as the TIP Report), discussed below.
Both U.S. policy, including the TVPA, and international
law (e.g., the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and
Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and
Children) view anti-trafficking responses as encompassing
efforts to protect victims, prosecute traffickers, and prevent
opportunities for traffickers to exploit (known as the 3Ps).
In addition to funding for anti-trafficking programs through
regular appropriations, Congress has shaped U.S. policy to
combat international human trafficking, including through
provisions that predate the TVPA. In chronological order,
key statutes include the following:
Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307),
which prohibits the importation of foreign goods made
wholly or in part by convict, forced labor, and/or
Section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2464),
as amended by the Trade and Development Act of 2000
(P.L. 106-200), which requires an annual report by the
Labor Department on the worst forms of child labor.
CSPA of 2008, which prohibits certain categories of
U.S. security assistance to be furnished to countries
involved in the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Title XVII of the National Defense Authorization Act,
Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA; P.L. 112-239), which
expands provisions in the TVPA to prevent trafficking
in federal procurement, including by military contractors
engaged in overseas contingency operations.
Section 106 of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade
Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (Title I of P.L.
114-26; 19 U.S.C. 4205), which limits the use of trade
authorities procedures for negotiating agreements with
the worst-ranked countries in the TIP Report.
International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child
Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through
Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders (P.L.
114-119), which seeks to prevent child sexual
exploitation abroad by outbound U.S. sex offenders.
Sections 910 and 914 of the Trade Facilitation and
Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-125), which
eliminated the so-called “consumptive demand
exception” to Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and
amended the trafficking provision in Bipartisan
Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act
of 2015, discussed above.
Section 1298 of the FY2017 NDAA (P.L. 114-328; 22
U.S.C. 7114), which authorized a new international
public-private partnership to address “modern slavery.”
Section 321 of the Countering America’s Adversaries
Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, P.L. 115-44), which
amends the North Korea Sanctions and Policy
Enhancement Act of 2016 (22 U.S.C. 9241 et seq.) to
require the President to apply sanctions on foreign
persons employing North Korean labor and to require
the application of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930,
discussed above, with respect to certain items mined,
produced, or manufactured by North Korean labor.
Human Trafficking and Foreign Policy: An Introduction
What is the State Department’s role?
The State Department leads federal efforts to combat
human trafficking. The Secretary of State chairs the
President’s Interagency Task Force (PITF) on Trafficking
in Persons, held most recently in October 2018. The
Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking
in Persons (J/TIP) chairs the Senior Policy Operating Group
(SPOG), a working-level interagency entity to coordinate
federal responses. J/TIP also administers several
international anti-trafficking grant programs, along with
preparing, with department-wide input, the TIP Report.
The Program to End Modern Slavery (PEMS), which
launched in October 2017 with an initial $25 million
investment, leveraged over time with other donor
resources, to support multiyear projects to reduce the
prevalence of modern slavery.
Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnerships with
Ghana, the Philippines, Peru, and Jamaica. CPCs are
negotiated bilateral partnerships to combat child
trafficking for up to five years; up to $5 million may be
awarded in support of each CPC.
How much funding is available?
What is the TIP Report?
Due in June each year, the TVPA requires State to prepare a
report for Congress describing the anti-trafficking efforts of
the United States and foreign governments.
How are countries ranked?
Countries ranked in the TIP Report fall into one of four
possible tiers or categories: Tier 1 (best), Tier 2, Tier 2
Watch List, and Tier 3 (worst). Only Tier 1 countries
comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for
eliminating trafficking, while the rest are noncompliant and
vary in terms of the level of effort to improve.
What are the minimum standards?
To be eligible for a Tier 1 ranking, the TVPA establishes
that governments should prohibit severe forms of
trafficking in persons, punish acts of such trafficking
commensurate with the gravity and heinous nature of the
crime, and be making “serious and sustained efforts” to
eliminate the problem. The TVPA further identifies criteria
for what constitutes serious and sustained effort.
What is at stake in the rankings?
The TVPA establishes restrictions on certain types of U.S.
foreign aid (nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related) to Tier 3
countries, although the President is authorized to waive, in
part or in full, such aid restrictions. Each year, these
decisions are issued in a presidential determination that is
published in the Federal Register.
How are child soldiers addressed?
Pursuant to the CSPA, TIP Reports since 2010 have
included a list of countries that recruit or use child soldiers
in their armed forces, or that harbor government-supported
armed forces that recruit or use child soldiers. Listed
countries are subject to security assistance restrictions,
unless the President determines that waivers are necessary.
What international grant programs
Between 2001 and 2018, J/TIP has reportedly managed
more than $300 million in foreign aid for anti-trafficking
programming implemented by a range of U.S. and foreign
nongovernmental, for-profit, and international
organizations, including academic institutions. Such
programming has included the following:
Bilateral and regional multiyear projects to address
the 3Ps of anti-trafficking in priority countries. As of
December 1, 2018, J/TIP reports that it has managed 86
such programs in more than 76 countries, worth a total
of more than $125 million.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115-141),
provided not less than $78.8 million in State Department
and foreign aid efforts to combat human trafficking. This
amount included $13.8 million to support J/TIP personnel
and administrative costs with Diplomatic and Consular
Programs (D&CP) funds. Also included was $65 million in
foreign aid for anti-trafficking programs—including not
less than $40 million out of the International Narcotics
Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) account. Of this,
$6 million was directed to be made available for DNA
forensic technology programs to combat human trafficking
in Central America and Mexico. The joint explanatory
statement accompanying FY2018 appropriations also
specified up to $5 million to support CPCs, $2 million for
“West Africa anti-slavery programs,” and an additional $25
million in INCLE funds (separate from the $40 million
listed above) for PEMS.
What changes to the TVPA were made
by the latest reauthorization?
The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and
Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 authorized
appropriations for international anti-trafficking
programming through FY2021, including $13.8 million in
D&CP funds for J/TIP and $65 million to State for bilateral
anti-trafficking assistance. Among other provisions, the act
made several changes to the TIP Report’s country ranking
system and expanded the CSPA’s reach to include the
recruitment or use of children in nonmilitary security
forces, including police.
What are the current policy issues?
Human trafficking is a generations-old problem that
continues to challenge policymakers for solutions. Basic
questions remain, such as how to measure the scope of the
problem or foster effective anti-trafficking policies in other
countries. Some also question aspects of U.S. policy,
including the TIP Report’s tier ranking system and the
effectiveness of related foreign aid. Key issues also include
how to eliminate trafficking in global supply chains; how to
protect vulnerable populations, particularly those in conflict
zones and women and children; and how to reduce demand
for the services provided by and products generated from
Liana W. Rosen, Specialist in International Crime and
Michael A. Weber, Analyst in Foreign Affairs
Human Trafficking and Foreign Policy: An Introduction
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