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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Trafficking in Persons: International Dimensions and Foreign Policy Issues for Congress



Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, refers to the subjection of men, women, and children to exploitative conditions that can be tantamount to slavery. Reports suggest that human trafficking is a global phenomenon, victimizing millions of people each year and contributing to a multi-billion dollar criminal industry. It is a centuries-old problem that, despite international and U.S. efforts to eliminate it, continues to occur in virtually every country in the world. Human trafficking is also an international and cross-cutting policy problem that bears on a range of major national security, human rights, criminal justice, social, economic, migration, gender, public health, and labor issues.

The U.S. government and successive Congresses have long played a leading role in international efforts to combat human trafficking. Key U.S. foreign policy responses include the following:


  • Foreign Country Reporting to describe annual progress made by foreign governments to combat human trafficking, child soldiers, and forced labor. 
  • Foreign Product Blacklisting to identify goods made with convict, forced, or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. 
  • Foreign Aid to support foreign countries’ efforts to combat human trafficking. 
  • Foreign Aid Restrictions to punish countries that are willfully noncompliant with anti-trafficking standards. 
  • Conditions on Trade Preference Program Beneficiaries to offer certain countries export privileges to the United States, provided that they adhere to international standards against forced labor and child trafficking. 
  • Preventing U.S. Government Participation in Trafficking Overseas to punish and deter trafficking-related violations among U.S. government personnel and contractors. 

Although there is widespread support among policy makers for the continuation of U.S. antitrafficking goals, ongoing reports of such trafficking worldwide raise questions regarding whether sufficient progress has been made to deter and ultimately eliminate the problem, the end goal of current U.S. anti-trafficking policies. This report explores current foreign policy issues confronting U.S. efforts to combat human trafficking, the interrelationship among existing polices, and the historical and current role of Congress in such efforts.

The 112
th Congress has introduced and considered several bills related to human trafficking, including bills to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the cornerstone legislative vehicle for current U.S. policy to combat human trafficking, beyond FY2011. None were ultimately enacted. Given recent challenges in balancing budget priorities, the 113th Congress may choose to consider certain aspects of this issue further, including the effectiveness of international anti-trafficking projects, interagency coordination mechanisms, and the monitoring and enforcement of anti-trafficking regulations, particularly as they relate to the activities of U.S. government contractors and subcontractors operating overseas. For an overview of domestic and international provisions in the TVPA, see CRS Report RL34317, Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress, by Alison Siskin and Liana Sun Wyler. .


Date of Report: January 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: R42497
Price: $29.95

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