Monday, November 16, 2009

APEC and Singapore’s Sex Tour Hydrofoil

comment by Jeff Ballinger

APEC and Singapore’s Sex Tour Hydrofoil

How nice for hyper-disciplined Singapore that it has an island bawdy house only half an hour away! Human rights activists have complained about child sex slavery on Batam for over a decade, but it is extremely unlikely that any of the hoard of journalists following President Obama would dig into the story; human rights just isn’t on the APEC Summit agenda, never has been.

But, hold on, there’s actually a trade-related story in Batam and it involves the uber-hot electronics industry. Here’s some U.S. House testimony from the Environmental Investigation Agency back in 2003:

“The Integrated Sourcing Initiative (ISI) of the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement allows another country to benefit from what should be a bilateral agreement. In the case of the US-S FTA, some 100 items of information technology products produced on the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintam [sic] will be allowed to benefit from the provisions of the FTA. Products produced on these Indonesian islands will be considered as originating in Singapore."
“This comes at a time when customs enforcement capacity is overwhelmed by smugglers obfuscating the origin of their products... Singapore distinguishes itself regionally by refusing to release data that may point to the questionable trading practices of Singaporean companies. Singapore recently drew the ire of Indonesia when it refused to fully release trade statistics between the two nations... Analysts in the Indonesian press have said that the Singaporean government is purposely keeping the real trade data a secret to protect “certain vested interest groups” that have continued contraband trade with the country, including Indonesian military figures.”
Many had hoed that the Obama presidency would usher in practices like a human rights think-through, every time the U.S. leader would go on a foreign trip. Realistically, of course, this would not mean a press briefing at the hydrofoil’s quay. But, come on, passing on some info to a couple of journalists looking for a social justice or corruption angle seems like a no-brainer.

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