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Cotton and Products with Cotton from Turkmenistan Subject to New Detention Order

Thursday, May 24, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has posted to its website information indicating that on May 18 it issued a withhold release order against all cotton from Turkmenistan and all products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton due to concerns that they are being produced with forced labor. It appears that this order, though it has not yet been formally announced, requires the detention of such goods at all U.S. ports of entry. CBP has said that importers of detained shipments are provided an opportunity to demonstrate that the goods were not produced with forced labor.

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. If CBP is provided with information sufficient to make a determination that the goods in question are subject to this provision it will publish a formal finding to that effect in the Customs Bulletin and Decisions and the Federal Register. No such finding has yet been published for subject cotton and cotton-containing products.

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 publicize 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 labor; i.e., slave, convict, forced child, or indentured labor. A list of all CBP withhold release orders and findings is available here.

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