Strengthening efforts to enforce the existing ban on imports of goods made with forced labor is among the provisions of an updated federal plan to combat human trafficking.

The plan notes that complex supply chains impede traceability and make it challenging to verify that goods and services are free of forced labor, problems exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic by supply chain disruptions and other factors. The plan therefore directs the departments of Commerce, State, Labor, Homeland Security, the Treasury, Defense, and Health and Human Services to collectively develop initiatives to provide key private-sector partners with information about forced labor in product supply chains as well as existing federal resources (e.g., the Comply Chain application, Responsible Sourcing Tool, DOS’s Trafficking in Persons Report, and DOL’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor). These initiatives will involve proactive outreach to convene industry leaders for both general information sessions and deeper discussions on industry-specific challenges and opportunities.

On the enforcement side, the plan directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to increase transparency regarding its withhold release orders, which authorize the detention of imports suspected of being made with forced labor. Specifically, CBP will (1) publish new and modified WROs on its website and forced labor findings in the Federal Register, (2) publish accessible explanations of its forced labor trade enforcement (e.g., pamphlets on its website), and (3) link to other sources of information supporting due diligence to remove goods produced with forced labor from product supply chains, such as information provided by the departments of Commerce, Labor, and State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The plan notes that in October 2020 DHS opened the Homeland Security Investigations-led Center for Countering Human Trafficking, which among other things works to combat trade in goods produced with forced labor by leveraging CBP’s authority to detain and seize such goods at ports of entry along with HSI’s authority to conduct criminal investigations into entities or individuals with a nexus to the U.S. who knowingly or in reckless disregard violate the prohibition on such imports and benefit from such a venture.

More broadly, the plan directs USTR to consider all options to combat forced labor and enhance government and corporate accountability in the global market, including engaging with allies to achieve commitments to fight forced labor and increase transparency and accountability in global supply chains. The plan cites as an example the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which includes commitments for each party to take measures in prohibiting imports of goods made with forced labor.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg offers a comprehensive suite of services to help companies address forced labor concerns, including supply chain reviews, due diligence strategies, and proactive remediation. In addition, ST&R has launched a web page offering a broad range of information on forced labor-related efforts in the U.S. and around the world. ST&R also has an on-demand webinar on forced labor and supply chain transparency available online.

For more information on any of these initiatives, please contact Amanda Levitt (at (212) 549-0148) or via email), David Olave (at (202) 730-4960 or via email), or Nicole Bivens Collinson (at (202) 730-4956 or via email).

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