Trade enforcement will be among the tools utilized under a new Biden administration strategy to advance high labor standards around the world.

According to a White House fact sheet, “upholding common standards and protecting fundamental rights are key for American workers and American companies to compete fairly in the global economy” and “an integral part of advancing a trade policy that contributes to inclusive economic growth.” The administration added that labor rights are “key to our national and economic security and to an effective foreign policy.”

President Biden has therefore signed a memorandum outlining a “whole-of-government approach” that directs federal departments and agencies to advance labor rights and worker empowerment in their work abroad.

With respect to trade, the memorandum calls on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Homeland Security, and others to take the following measures.

- utilize available customs authorities to address forced labor and related abuses in global supply chains and consider whether to exchange information with allies and partners to facilitate similar actions

- continue to prioritize, build upon, and increase initiatives to improve labor-related compliance with U.S. trade laws, including those related to preference programs and general enforcement, customs laws, and trade agreements or the labor provisions of other economic frameworks or agreements in which the U.S. participates

- consider developing a comprehensive effort to eradicate forced labor from global business operations and supply chains through increased collaboration with stakeholders including workers, industry, non-governmental organizations, and like-minded international partners

- update the strategy for supporting enforcement of the ban on imports of goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

- continue efforts to develop, manage, and review recommendations for additions to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List and consider requests for removals and technical corrections (click here to register for ST&R’s upcoming webinar on how UFLPA enforcement has impacted U.S. trade)

- identify innovative approaches to promote adherence to internationally-recognized labor rights throughout the supply chain, including efforts that support worker-led monitoring of labor rights compliance

- consider efforts to use available authorities (e.g., to combat serious human rights abuses and actions undermining democracy) to address violations of internationally-recognized worker rights such as forced labor, child labor, and related abuses in global supply chains

The administration will also seek to utilize trade, commerce, diplomacy, and foreign assistance to strengthen engagement with governments, workers, labor organizations and trade unions, civil society, and the private sector to protect and promote respect for internationally recognized labor rights, including the prevention of forced labor, child labor, and other abuses. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai pointed out that the U.S. already has a trade and labor dialogue with the European Union, is working with Japan to launch a task force to address forced labor, and is collaborating with World Trade Organization members to “revamp the entity so that it can take workers’ interests into account.”

Other measures the memorandum directs agencies to take include the following.

- deploy trade penalties, financial sanctions, and other measures, as appropriate, in response to anti-worker and anti-union harassment from government, private, and extra-legal actors

- advocate for strong implementation of labor safeguards requirements in multilateral development bank financing, with a focus on combating forced labor and child labor, supply chains, freedom of association and collective bargaining, and occupational health and safety

- encourage foreign companies and investors to uphold high labor standards in their economic and commercial engagement

- invite labor experts and external labor stakeholders to events and conferences related to international trade, commerce, climate and energy, and financing

- conduct training of federal employees (including foreign commercial service officers) on promoting internationally-recognized labor rights, strengthening democratic labor movements, and preventing forced labor, child labor, and related abuses

- seek global cooperation on improving international labor standards and building coalitions to protect internationally recognized labor rights

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg offers a comprehensive suite of services to help companies address forced labor concerns around the world, including supply chain reviews, due diligence strategies, and proactive remediation. ST&R also maintains a frequently updated web page offering a broad range of information on forced labor-related efforts in the U.S. and around the world. For more information, please contact ST&R at

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