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Slavery and the Supply Chain

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Yet another way to celebrate American awesomeness today before you blow off your fingers and, even worse, put ketchup on your hot dogs, is to remember how we rely on global slavery and other forms of labor exploitation to make the products we use everyday, probably including what you are wearing right now, your fireworks, the bandages to be used when you blow off your fingers, etc.

I like reading corporate perspectives on these issues, which can be very telling. This is an interesting essay on slavery in the ASEAN nations, warning companies to be aware of the labor conditions in the individual countries where they choose to source their production because a lot of them are afflicted with slave labor that the company may not want to be associated with, regardless of the cost. Thus, the article suggests that Bangladesh might not be where a company wants to go. Instead, it suggests Vietnam and Indonesia and low-cost (nearly zero cost?) alternatives without a lot of forced labor that are better than those high-priced nations like Thailand and the Philippines. Of course, the idea that Thailand and the Philippines, two very poor nations, have labor costs that are too high is another reason why manufacturing simply is not going to lead to wealth for poor nations.

The U.S. government might be willing to make statements on these issues–so long as the nation in question isn’t actually very important to American trade. The U.S. is telling Ghana to clean up its act with regards to child slavery, or face some consequences.

n the 2016 Global Slavery Index, Ghana ranks 13 out of 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the 34th country with the most modern slaves out of 167 countries in the world. The United States government on Thursday warned Ghana to increase its efforts to end modern day slavery or risk losing millions of dollars in aid.

The county has been listed for the second year in a row as a Tier 2 Watch List country in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report released on Thursday by U.S. State Department.

Child trafficking and forced labor remains a significant problem in Ghana with both the total number and the proportion of children in child labor increasing in recent years.

Data from the Ghana Statistical Service indicate that 1.9 million children aged 5-17 are engaged in child labor with 1.2 million of the children engaged in hazardous labor.

Ah, the Trafficking in Humans Watch List. Good thing the Obama administration is super consistent here, having jumped Malaysia from Tier 3 to Tier 2 so that it could include that nation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, immediately after a huge number of bodies of trafficked labor were found in that nation.

So maybe Ghana should be scared. After all, it doesn’t have a fancy trade agreement with the U.S. at stake.

Really, the Malaysia human trafficking score is one of the very worst moments of Obama foreign policy, in my view far worse than Honduras, where I guess Hillary was supposed to call for an invasion of that nation to restore the Zelaya government or something. I didn’t know that the left now supported U.S. invasions of Latin America, but in any case, while the Honduras case bathes Clinton or Obama in no great glory, there options were quite limited short of invasion, whereas in Malaysia, the Obama administration had lots of options and chose a very bad one.

Incidentally, the image above is by Darrin Bell, whose work you may find interesting.

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