Forced Labor, Informed Compliance, & Next Steps

“Have you taken reliable measures to ensure imported goods are not produced wholly or in part with convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor (including forced or indentured child labor)?”

This is the basic question CBP asks in their revised version of the Informed Compliance Publication (ICP) – “Reasonable Care” – a revision brought about by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA). This Act was signed into law on February 24, 2016 and is said to be “the first comprehensive authorization of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, with the overall objective to ensure a fair and competitive trade environment.”

Every importer needs to be able to answer this question in the affirmative, demonstrating that they have exercised reasonable care in making sure their supply chain is free from abusive labor practices. Below we will look at the definition of this term, the consequences of failing to comply with proper procedures, and what importers can take initiative to do.

What is Forced Labor?

As defined in Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1307):

Forced labor, as herein used, shall mean all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for its nonperformance and for which the worker does not offer himself voluntarily. For purposes of this section, the term “forced labor or/and indentured labor” includes forced or indentured child labor.

The responsibility to prevent abusive labor practices extends beyond manufacturers and suppliers to importers, as importing merchandise that is “mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by convict labor or/and forced labor or/and indentured labor under penal sanctions” – is expressly prohibited per 19 U.S. Code § 1307.

Consequences of Importing Goods Produced by Forced Labor

Goods imported into the U.S. that are “mined, produced, or manufactured” through forced labor may:

  • be denied entry
  • be seized by U.S. Customs
  • lead to criminal investigation of the importer(s)

What Should Importers Do?

Importers should review their procedures to help combat these abusive practices.

1. C J recommends all importers require a specific statement from their suppliers that they do not use any form of forced labor and they do not conduct business, anywhere in their supply chain, with anyone or any company that utilizes forced labor.

2. Reference CBP’s list of Withhold Release Orders (WRO’s)

  • In 2018, CBP established a Forced Labor Division to lead the enforcement of the prohibition on the imports made with forced labor. Shortly thereafter, they began issuing Withhold Release Orders. WRO’s target products, countries, regions and certain manufacturers.

3. Consult CBP’s website for detailed information on forced labor and what you can do as part of your due diligence in the importing process:

If you have any questions or require more information, please contact C J’s Compliance Officer, Samya Murray at sdmurray@cjinternational.com.


Our blog posts are for informational purposes only. While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate information, C J is not liable or responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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