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CBP Issues Detention Order on Certain Fibre and Potassium Products Produced by Forced Labour in Mainland China

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently issued two separate withhold release orders against (1) imported potassium, potassium hydroxide and potassium nitrate manufactured or mined by Tangshan Sunfar Silicon Company a/k/a Tangshan SunFar Silicon Industries Co. Ltd. in mainland China; and (2) imported viscose/rayon fibre, soda ash, calcium chloride or caustic soda manufactured or mined by Tangshan Sanyou Group and its subsidiaries in mainland China. These orders are based on information obtained by CBP indicating that these companies utilise convict labour in the production of these goods. While it is illegal under U.S. law to import goods made, wholly or in part, with convict labour and/or forced labour (including forced child labour) and/or indentured labour under penal sanctions, CBP had not issued a withhold release order on a mainland Chinese product for potentially violating this law in more than two decades.

19 USC 1307 prohibits the importation of goods mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced labour, including forced child labour. Such goods are subject to exclusion and/or seizure and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 closed a loophole in this law that had allowed imports of certain forced labour-produced goods if they were not produced domestically in such quantities as to meet consumptive demands.

When information reasonably but not conclusively indicates that goods within the purview of 19 USC 1307 are being imported, CBP may issue withhold release orders. However, CBP states that it acts on information concerning specific manufacturers, exporters and goods and does not generally target entire product lines or industries in problematic countries or regions. CBP also does not generally publicise specific detentions, re-exportations, exclusions or seizures that may have resulted from its withhold release orders or findings. CBP encourages stakeholders to closely examine their supply chains to ensure that imported goods are not mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, with prohibited forms of labour (i.e., slave, convict, forced child or indentured labour).

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