WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. is criticizing China and Russia for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking, ranking them on a par with North Korea and Syria.
The State Department downgraded China and Russia in rankings on how 188 governments around the world have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labor.
Rights activists are welcoming the move but it could further strain Washington's touchy relations with the two world powers.
The U.S. also downgraded Uzbekistan over its state-sanctioned use of forced labor in the annual cotton harvest.
The rankings are in the department's annual report released Wednesday
President Barack Obama now has 90 days to determine whether to apply sanctions, which appears unlikely because of the strategic importance of relations with those three nations.