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U.S. launches forced labor enforcement initiative

09/01/2020 - François-Xavier Branthôme
Imports of Chinese products being questioned? Widening scope also seen in ban of Chinese products over mistreatment of Uyghur minority.

 The federal government is getting serious about modern slavery and forced labor, and American companies need to be prepared for the resulting expansion of a broad range of enforcement efforts.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced an unprecedented partnership with Liberty Shared, a nonprofit organization with global coverage founded in Hong Kong, to combat forced labor in global commerce. This new alliance between DHS and the nonprofit world is expected to both broaden and strengthen the U.S. government’s criminal enforcement efforts in investigating and prosecuting corporations that benefit financially from forced labor in the supply chain. DHS is operating under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and the Tariff Act of 1930 on goods made in whole or in part by forced labor.

Under the TVPA, a U.S. corporation can be held criminally liable for corporate human trafficking even where the exploitation occurs abroad. Companies can face up to $500,000 in fines, or twice the economic benefit derived from the violation.

HSI’s investigations also can lead DHS’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to block imports of products produced by slave labor from entry into the United States. This happened recently when CBP banned from import products the agency says were produced in China by forced labor arising from the Chinese communist government’s persecution of the country’s Moslem Uyghur minority population in the province of Xinjiang. Several types of products from Malaysia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Brazil are targeted by this initiative; other products that may be integrated into global supply chains from Xinjiang include tomato paste and sugar.

Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP Office of Trade, added that, “CBP is firmly committed to identifying and preventing products made with the use of forced labor from entering the stream of U.S. Commerce. 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.

Some complementary data
US imports of Chinese tomato paste and share of Chinese products in total US imports of tomato paste. During the 2018/2019 marketing year, products of Chinese origin (1,358 mT) represented 5.7% of external US total supplies of tomato paste (23,630 mT).

Source:, Trade Data Monitor LLC
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