Background

The U.S. is urging World Trade Organization members to include forced labor in their ongoing negotiations on a potential agreement to address fishing subsidies. This effort highlights the continuing expansion of U.S. efforts against forced labor, which U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the White House is “committed to fighting … wherever it occurs.”

WTO members are currently negotiating disciplines on harmful fisheries subsidies, including with respect to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, certain distant-water fishing, and fishing by vessels not flying the subsidizing member’s flag. The U.S. is proposing that a final agreement include the following provisions.

- explicitly recognize that the use of forced labor on fishing vessels is often associated with IUU fishing

- extend the scope of a prohibition on subsidies to a vessel or operator engaged in IUU fishing to fishing-related activity in support of IUU fishing (e.g., support enabling a vessel to offload fish and receive fuel and supplies at sea may also allow vessels using forced labor to evade detection)

- require WTO members to notify the WTO annually of any vessels and operators for which they have information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor, along with relevant information to the extent possible

“The WTO has an opportunity to address this issue with a meaningful agreement that increases transparency and accountability in global supply chains,” Tai said, and should therefore “consider the full range of trade tools at our disposal to combat forced labor and other exploitative labor conditions.”

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. For more information, 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). You can also click here for ST&R’s forced labor resources page.

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