Mission hopes to sway US on trafficking
Thai private-sector and government officials are flying to the US today to clarify what Thailand has done to tackle forced labour and child labour issues.
The delegation hopes the meetings with lobbyists, business leaders and state officials will help upgrade Thailand from the lowest ranking of the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
Phumin Harinsut, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said representatives of the chamber and state agencies led by the Foreign Ministry would explain Thailand's progress in handling foreign workers and child labourers. The group will return next Wednesday.
"We're quite optimistic that what we've done will be enough to convince the US to remove Thailand from the lowest ranking," Mr Phumin said.
The US State Department last June downgraded Thailand to its lowest status, Tier 3, for not fully complying with minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
After being listed as Tier 2 for four years, Thailand joined Syria, Iran, North Korea and 17 other nations in Tier 3.
The TIP report contains no mechanism for imposing trade barriers but says any US opposition to assistance for foreign governments must exclude trade-related assistance.
The report could still affect certain funding channels, as the US could pressure global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank not to lend to Thailand.
The allegations in the report centre on the shrimp, fish, sugar-cane, garment and pornography industries.
Thailand's shipments to the US were worth 768 billion baht last year, making up 10.5% of exports.
Mr Phumin said Thai seafood and canned food would be hit especially hard if the US ruled to keep Thailand at its lowest ranking in the 2015 report.
"Although the US has not banned Thai exports in light of Tier 3, the private sector is afraid of other barriers," he said, adding that the report had damaged the country's export image.
The Thai Chamber of Commerce has set up a special task force to study the labour issue and map out a plan for all related parties to pursue a concerted effort to tackle labour problems and human trafficking allegations.
Thai officials are set to fly to Brussels next month to discuss migrant worker issues with the foreign business community.