Customs and border protection lead in the fight against forced labor

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Few issues in recent memory have received more bipartisan support from Congress or the American people than the fight against forced labor.

Around 25 million men, women and children around the world are victims of forced labor and human trafficking, which can involve abusive working and living conditions, withholding of wages, isolation , physical and sexual violence and other appalling exploitation and abuse. The United States has taken a strong stance against forced labor because it is contrary to our fundamental values ​​and beliefs.

The reality is, no one wants a sweater that costs a person their life or their freedom. But if any piece of this sweater originated in Xinjiang, China, chances are it did, and unfortunately the complexity of today’s global supply chains presents many opportunities for those who take advantage of forced labor to hide their activity. Harrowing testimonies from survivors of Xinjiang detention camps describe workers held in horrific conditions and subjected to torture, forced sterilization, rape and countless other shocking abuses.

Knowingly or not, goods made with forced labor fund transnational criminal organizations and corrupt entities that abuse workers and threaten the economic security of the United States. At U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we know that economic security threats are national security threats, and we’ve made it a priority to eliminate forced labor from U.S. supply chains.

CBP seized or detained more than $485 million in forced labor goods worldwide in FY21, including seafood, cotton clothing purchased online, and baked goods containing salt. palm oil prohibited. Our efforts have created a ripple effect around the world. Many countries are working to ban forced labor from their supply chains and improve their labor practices. Thanks to these efforts, producers have improved the living and working conditions of thousands of workers. One company even reimbursed workers over $30 million in recruitment fees that locked them into debt bondage. All of this was a direct result of CBP’s strong forced labor law enforcement.

CBP’s enforcement efforts will be bolstered by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). A key provision of the law, which went into effect on June 21, is a “rebuttable presumption” that any goods mined, produced or manufactured in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are tainted with forced labor. This means that all goods directly from or related to the XUAR are prohibited from entering the United States unless the importer can demonstrate with “clear and convincing evidence” that their imports do not include any forced labor goods. .

CBP facilitates legitimate commerce every day and will continue to ensure that goods can enter our ports and reach American businesses and consumers as quickly as possible. But this law strengthens and expands CBP’s enforcement capabilities and shines a light on the PRC government’s use of forced labor.

This new law is also essential because forced labor creates unfair competition for the national industry. It endangers American jobs by forcing law-abiding corporations and businesses to compete with bad actors who use forced labor to increase their profits by violating human rights. It can also lead to greater dependence on foreign products, while limiting economic opportunities at home.

Upholding our values ​​and protecting the ability of American businesses to compete on a level playing field, innovate, and engage in fair global commerce is at the forefront of CBP’s mission. As CBP implements the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law, we will continue to pursue any entity, anywhere in the world, that attempts to bring forced labor goods into the United States. Those who seek to circumvent the law will suffer the consequences. But we would strongly prefer to work closely with industry partners – large or small – working to comply with this law.

Consumers can also play an important role in demanding transparency in the supply chains of their purchases and supporting ethically sourced products. Ask retailers about their supply chains and take advantage of free resources like ImportYeti and federal documents like the Department of Labor’s Child Labor or Forced Labor List to understand which products are most at risk of having links to forced labour.

At CBP, we want American workers and businesses to prosper through access to a secure global supply chain and the free flow of international commerce. We are confident that we can effectively balance this goal with our commitment to eliminating forced labor from supply chains and bringing this global human rights imperative to light.

Chris Magnus is the Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection.

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