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List of Goods Made with Child/Forced Labour Updated as CBP Offers Advice to Help Avoid Importing Such Goods

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs has issued an updated list of goods and countries of origin that the Bureau has reason to believe are produced by child labour or forced labour in violation of international standards. ILAB is required to develop and make available to the public this list pursuant to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, as amended. ILAB issued its initial list on 10 September 2009 and has since published seven updated editions. The list now includes a total of 139 goods from 75 countries.

The 2016 edition adds three new goods (pepper, potatoes and silk cocoons) and two new countries (Costa Rica and Sudan) to the list, as well as various new product/country combinations. Newly added product/country combinations of potential interest include, among others, sugarcane from Cambodia (child labour), fish and tin from Indonesia (forced labour), and textiles, footwear, furniture, leather, fish, rubber, timber, tobacco, pepper, cashews, tea, rice, sugarcane and coffee from Vietnam (child labour). In addition, the DOL removed its forced labour listing for garments from Jordan.

No mainland Chinese products were added to or removed from the most recent list. The list currently includes a range of products made in the mainland, namely artificial flowers (forced labour), bricks (child and forced labour), Christmas decorations (forced labour), coal (forced labour), cotton (child and forced labour), electronics (child and forced labour), fireworks (child and forced labour), footwear (forced labour), garments (forced labour), nails (forced labour), textiles (child labour) and toys (child and forced labour). The list also includes key products from several large or significant U.S. suppliers, including garments from Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam; cotton from Azerbaijan, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; footwear from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia (only sandals) and Vietnam; textiles from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India (embellished) and Vietnam; and leather or leather goods from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Vietnam. The list does not include any products made in Hong Kong.

Gold is the product with the most child labour and forced labour listings with 22 countries, followed by bricks and sugarcane with 19 countries each, cotton with 18, coffee and tobacco with 16 each, cattle with 13, fish with 11, rice with nine, and garments and textiles with eight each. The highest concentration of forced labour is currently found in cotton with eight countries, followed by garments and bricks with seven countries each, and cattle and sugarcane with five countries each.

The DOL states that governments and industries with goods on the list can engage directly with the agency and other stakeholders to develop plans for eradicating child labour and forced labour in the listed sectors. Companies and industry groups are also encouraged to use the DOL’s Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor: A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses to develop or improve their social compliance systems. The DOL adds that consumers can engage with the companies from whom they buy products to ask whether their practices measure up to internationally-recognised standards for responsible business conduct.

The DOL has also made a final determination not to add carpets from India to a separate list of goods established through Executive Order 13126 that requires federal contractor certification as to forced or indentured child labour. After a nearly two-year review, the DOL states that there is insufficient evidence at this time establishing more than isolated incidents of forced or indentured child labour in the production of carpets in India.

Executive Order 13126 prohibits federal agencies from acquiring goods, wares, articles and merchandise that have been mined, produced or manufactured wholly or in part by forced or indentured child labour, and the EO 13126 list identifies products that the DOL has a reasonable basis to believe might meet that criterion. Federal contractors who supply the products on this list must certify that they have made a good faith effort to determine whether forced or indentured child labour was used to mine, produce or manufacture them and that, on the basis of those efforts, they are unaware of any such use of child labour. This list currently includes four products from mainland China: bricks, cotton, electronics and toys.

Finally, ILAB is requesting comments and information no later than 16 December as part of the process to prepare the next editions of the TVPRA list, the list of goods requiring federal contractor certification as to forced or indentured child labour, and the worst forms of child labour report.

Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has posted information on a number of tools companies can use to develop social compliance systems that will help them combat the risks of child and forced labour in their operations and global supply chains. Section 1307 of U.S. Code Title 19 prohibits the importation of goods mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced labour, including convict labour, forced child labour and indentured 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 requiring detention of those goods at all U.S. ports of entry. CBP has acted on this new authority several times already and Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske has said more such actions should be expected, noting that the standard for reasonable suspicion is “pretty low.” To release shipments subject to such orders, importers must submit a certificate of origin and a detailed statement showing that the goods were not produced with forced labour.

CBP is encouraging stakeholders to closely examine their supply chains to ensure that imported goods are not produced with prohibited forms of labour. A recent agency fact sheet states that the following steps can assist companies in this effort:

  • access DOL guidance on setting up a social compliance system;
  • use reasonable care by obtaining advice from a licenced customs broker, customs or international trade attorney, or customs consultant;
  • obtain an audit (available from many private sources) to evaluate risks in your supply chain;
  • request a CBP administrative ruling on prospective transactions;
  • utilise CBP’s informed compliance publications;
  • take advantage of other federal guidance, including the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and the DOL’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor; and
  • consult investigative reports and other publications from civil society and international organisations on labour rights and working conditions in countries that export to the United States.
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