China and Russia have earned the lowest possible rating in the State Department's latest report on global human trafficking, and will face sanctions as a result.
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report is the "world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts," and has downgraded China, Russia, and Uzbekistan to Tier 3, the same designation as offenders like Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
The downgrade requires the United States to prepare sanctions against the offending countries, at a time when relations with both China and Russia are already strained.
"The political will that this report represents is really something," Karen Stauss, director of programs at advocacy group Free the Slaves, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "Of the three downgraded, with China and Russia there are strong reasons not to fray relations."
The annual report, mandated by Congress, downgraded 27 countries and moved up 14 out of 188 nations surveyed.
Secretary of State John Kerry wrote in the introduction to the report that ending human slavery needed to "remain a foreign policy priority."
"Fighting this crime wherever it exists is in our national interest," Kerry, who made the final determination, wrote. "Human trafficking undermines the rule of law and creates instability. It tears apart families and communities. It damages the environment and corrupts the global supply chains and labor markets that keep the world’s economies thriving… We also have a moral obligation to meet this challenge head-on."
Russia and China have both been on the TIP Tier 2 "watch list" for the past nine years.
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