Background

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a new withhold release order against tobacco from Malawi and products containing such tobacco based on information indicating that this tobacco is produced using forced labor and forced child labor.

Effective Nov. 1 this order requires the detention of such goods at all U.S. ports of entry. Importers of detained shipments have three months to either export their goods or provide a certificate of origin and detailed statement demonstrating that the goods were not produced with forced labor. If no such documentation is provided, or if it does not establish admissibility, the goods are subject to seizure.

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 the above goods.

CBP has said 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.

For more information, please contact trade consultant Nicole Bivens Collinson at (202) 730-4956.

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