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14 Sep 2022

Deutsche Welle,
Süddeutsche Zeitung

EU ban too feeble to fight forced labor, groups say

If you buy products in the European Union, you might assume that those products are free from forced labor. But until now, this assumption would be wrong.

That is supposed to change with a new EU policy proposal released today, intended to prohibit products made with forced labor from being bought or sold on the common EU market.

After various versions of the proposal being leaked to the press, the European Commission has now released its take at attempting a ban on forced labor.

Though the proposal was broadly welcomed by both labor rights organizations and businesses, critics point to deficiencies — which might cut into its effectiveness...

Organizations advocating to end forced labor point to several positives in the regulations, such as the open database and how the proposal would be product-based and thus apply to all companies. They also praise how the proposal very clearly outlaws products made by forced labor...

But watchdogs also point to problems with the proposal in its current form.

"The Commission proposes to exclude goods from the market only after the existence of forced labor in their supply chain has been established, not when it is suspected," said Anna Cavazzini, the German member of European Parliament who negotiated for the Greens on the topic...

The EU proposal, in contrast, places the burden of proof on European authorities, which are under-resourced and would end up doing piecemeal enforcement, critics say...

This high evidentiary standard, coupled with opaque EU customs import data, means "It's very unlikely that we'll see much enforcement on this proposal," Vanpeperstraete told DW...

It must also still wend its way through the European Council and could take another year or two before being finalized...