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.”

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.

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

Goods 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. More information on the forced labor program is available here.

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.

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.

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.

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