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17 Oct 2023

EU: Towards an import ban for products made with forced labour

In February 2021, the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) Group in the European Parliament released a discussion paper examining options for an EU mechanism on forced labor and modern slavery. The paper called for a new EU instrument with a trade legal basis, which would establish a mandate to withhold the release of goods suspected to be made by or transported by forced labor. The import ban instrument would be a complementary measure to the EU legislation on corporate human rights and environmental due diligence currently being developed.

In September 2021, during the annual State of the EU speech, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen publicly announced the EU's intention to introduce a ban on the import of products made with forced labour.

On 9 June 2022, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for an import ban on products produced with forced labour from entering the EU market. The Parliament's recommendations are intended to feed into the EU Commission's ongoing drafting of new EU rules on products created or transported by forced labour. Civil society claims the future instrument must put victims first and be remedy-centered.

On 14 September 2022, the European Commission put forward a legal proposal to prohibit products made with forced labour on the EU market. Civil society has welcomed the proposed regulation, but criticised weaknesses particularly around a lack of remedy for victims. The proposal needs to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can enter into force.

The Parliament's Internal Market and International Trade committees adopted their position on the proposed regulation on 16 October 2023, strengthening the Commission's draft; they have agreed to skip plenary and go straight to trilogue once the Council adopts a mandate too.

On 26 January 2024, the Council adopted its general approach, paving the way for institutional negotiations to begin.

More information is available below.