US halts import of goods that may have been made with forced labor

US halts import of goods that may have been made with forced labor
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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) this week barred the import of goods from five countries in an attempt to curb forced labor abroad.

With five Withhold Release Orders (WRO) announced Tuesday, CBP declared it would halt the import of a series of products, including rough diamonds, gold and disposable rubber gloves, that come from China, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Brazil.

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“A major part of CBP’s mission is facilitating legitimate trade and travel,” said acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. “CBP’s issuing of these five withhold release orders shows that if we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves.”

“CBP is firmly committed to identifying and preventing products made with the use of forced labor from entering the stream of U.S. Commerce,” added Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner, CBP Office of Trade. “The effort put into investigating these producers highlights CBP’s priority attention on this issue. Our agency works tirelessly behind the scenes to investigate and gather information on forced labor in global supply chains.” 

U.S. law prohibits the import of goods that are made wholly or in part by forced labor, which CBP classifies as including convict labor, indentured labor and forced or indentured child labor.

According to the agency’s data, CBP has issued just one other WRO in 2019, which was against tuna and tuna products.

To start an investigation, CBP says it needs information that reasonably, but not conclusively, suggests that a product was produced by forced labor. The agency said it gathers evidence from news reports and tips from the public or trade community.

Importers accused of using forced labor can choose to either export their products or submit information to CBP to prove that forced labor was not used in order to have the goods released into the U.S.

The U.S. has had a ban on the import of goods that were produced by forced labor since 1930, but enforcement of the law was not consistent until Congress changed the law in 2016, according to the law firm Arnold & Porter.