US ban on import of products made with forced labour

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21 April 2016

US Customs & Border enforcement agency blocks goods from entering US under suspicion they were made with forced labour

Author: Meghan Hampsey, Human Rights First

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) recently issued two “withhold release” orders, blocking goods from entering the country under suspicion that they were made with forced labor. These are the first such orders since the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act (H.R. 644), which President Obama signed in February of this year. Section 910 of the act prohibits the importation of goods made with forced labor into the United States, closing a loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930 that allowed importing such goods if the product was not made in high enough quantities domestically to meet the U.S. demand. According to David Salkled of Arent Fox LLP, these are the first withhold release orders made in regards to forced labor in over a decade. The first order came on March 29th against imported soda ash, calcium chloride, caustic soda, and viscose/rayon fiber that was manufactured or mined by Chinese company Tangshan Sunfar Silicon Company. CBP believes that these products were made by forced convict labor. The second order, on April 13th, was against imported potassium, potassium hydroxide, and potassium nitrate that is believed to be mined and manufactured by the same company using convict labor.

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16 April 2016

"The new US ban on slave labor imports appears to have teeth"

Author: Tim Fernholz, Quartz

14 April

A new rule to ban the US import of products made with forced labor could mean trouble for companies whose supply chains reach into the darkest corners of the global labor market.

Last week, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a seizure order for a shipment of soda ash produced by Tangshan Sanyou Group, alleging that the chemicals exporter relies on prison labor. It was the first such order since 2001, granted after Congress closed a loophole that had rendered a century-old ban on forced labor imports toothless.

A second order against another Chinese chemical company, Tangshan Sunfar Silicon Industries, was announced on April 13. Both companies provide the chemical processors to a huge range of common products, from glass and dyes to silicone and food preservatives.

Now, activists and companies are gearing up for a battle over the rule, which came into effect last month. A coalition of human rights advocates and labor groups are organizing to use the rule to force the seizure of imported goods and to call attention to dangerous labor practices abroad, even as companies respond to mounting pressure to clean up their supply chains...

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6 April 2016

US border agents seize shipment of Chinese soda ash - claim it was produced by forced prison labour

Author: Tim Fernholz, Quartz (USA)

"US border agents seized goods tied to forced labor for the first time since 2001", 29 March 2016

US border agents seized a shipment of soda ash from China today, alleging that it was produced by forced prison the Tangshan Sanyou Group, a Chinese corporation. The agency said it had information “indicating that the Tangshan Sanyou Group and its subsidiaries utilize convict labor in the production of the merchandise”....

The seizure marks the first time since 2001 that US Customs has impounded goods connected to forced labor. They were able to act because president Barack Obama signed a law in January that removed a loophole which made it almost impossible to enforce laws against the importation of goods made with forced labor or by children.

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28 February 2016

One step closer to stopping the import of goods made with forced labour

Author: David Abramowitz, Humanity United, in Reuters

...Many years of advocacy recently paid off, however, when President Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act, eliminating the odious exception. This is inspiring news for all who believe U.S. markets should not be open to goods made with modern slavery, and for those who want to press governments and companies to do more to end forced labour abroad. Finally, after 85 years of ineffectual enforcement, the U.S. Government has the leverage to implement this law in a way that will actually foster real change...

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26 February 2016

US Govt. prepares to enforce law restricting import of goods made with forced & child labour

Author: Guardian (UK) with Associated Press

"Obama revives anti-slavery law to target Thailand's seafood exports"

Federal officials are preparing to enforce an 86-year-old ban on importing goods made by children or slaves [including potentially seafood produced by slaves in Thailandunder new provisions of a law signed by the president.

The Tariff Act of 1930, which gave...[the US government] the authority to seize shipments where forced labour was suspected and block further imports, was last used in 2000, and has been used only 39 times in all, largely because of two words: “consumptive demand” – if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand, imports were allowed regardless of how they were produced.

The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act signed by Obama on Wednesday eliminated that language, allowing stiffer enforcement. Fish and shrimp from Thailand, peanuts from Turkey, gold from Ghana and carpets from India are featured on a US Labor Department list of more than 350 goods produced by child labour or forced labour...

To start an investigation, customs needs to receive a petition from anyone...showing “reasonably but not conclusively” that imports were made at least in part with forced labour. Neha Misra of the Solidarity Center...said petitions remained hard to file and proving a case was complicated but she was still encouraged...

Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for National Fisheries Institute, which represents about 75 percent of the U.S. seafood industry, said Thursday their members want to see the ban enforced.


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