In December, Obama ended trade benefits with The Gambia following the country’s approval of a law that called for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”. It’s a different story in Brunei, a tiny, oil-rich Asian country that imposed a law last year requiring death by stoning for people who engage in same-sex acts.
Reports from United States said if Obama gets his way, Brunei will become one of eleven nations to join the United States in signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would create the largest trade pact in history.
“Obama had set a clear precedent for using trade to advance gay rights in The Gambia and should do the same in Brunei,” said Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work – a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender labour organisation.
He added: “Brunei’s law is actually worse because it imposes the death penalty, whereas The Gambia only imposes life in prison – as if that’s an only. And, let’s be clear: Brunei enacted this law while they were in TPP negotiations.”
Gay rights groups want Brunei thrown out of the talks and with more than 100 members of Congress calling for the United States to get tough on Brunei, the issue poses yet another obstacle for Obama and his team as they try to wrap up work in the coming months on the long-stalled trade pact.
“A country that has laws that are anathema to American values doesn’t deserve to be in our trade negotiations,” California Democratic representative, John Garamendi, was quoted in US media as saying.
However, Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a pro-trade group, said the best way to get Brunei officials to change their law was to engage with them and integrate the country into the Western trading system, not to isolate them.
“Our experience has been that sticks don’t work very well, while carrots sometimes succeed,” Reinsch said. “Kicking them out of TPP might make us feel better, but it will diminish the trade agreement and also not achieve the objective of changing their anti-gay policy. In other words, it’s a lose-lose.”
But rights groups expressed dismay over the ‘double-standard’, saying it is a ‘little odd’ that the Obama administration had acted decisively with The Gambia but not with Brunei.]]>