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CBP Outlines Due Diligence Steps to Help Avoid Imports Made with Forced Labor

Friday, October 07, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

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 labor in their operations and global supply chains.

19 USC 1307 prohibits the importation of goods mined, produced, or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced labor, including convict labor, forced child labor, and indentured labor. 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 labor-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 labor.

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

- access Department of Labor guidance on setting up a social compliance system

- use reasonable care by obtaining advice from a licensed 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

- utilize CBP’s informed compliance publications

- take advantage of other federal guidance, including the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report and the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

- consult investigative reports and other publications from civil society and international organizations on labor rights and working conditions in countries that export to the U.S.

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