Background

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has authorized port directors to seize, and commence forfeiture proceedings against, stevia extracts and derivatives mined, produced, or manufactured in China by the Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Group Baoanzhao Agriculture, Industry, and Trade Co. Ltd. with the use of convict, forced, or indentured labor. CBP has determined that there is sufficient evidence to support the finding that Baoanzhao is a prison/forced labor facility and that stevia extracts and derivatives from this facility are being, or are likely to be, imported into the U.S. CBP issued a withhold release order against such goods in May 2016.

CBP’s finding covers stevia leaf (stevia rebaudiana) extracts, or glycosides classified under HTSUS 2938.90.0000, that are mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part by Baoanzhao, which is also known by the following names: the Inner Mongolia Hengzheng Group Baoanzhao Agriculture and Trade Co. Ltd., the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Prison Administration Bureau Baoanzhao Agriculture and Trade Co. Ltd., and the Baoanzhao Prison Farm. The finding applies to any subject goods that (1) are imported on or after Oct. 20 or (2) have already been imported but were not released from CBP custody before Oct. 20.

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 eliminated a provision that allowed entry 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. CBP will then detain such goods for an admissibility determination and exclude them unless the importer demonstrates that they were not made using forced labor. The importer may also export the 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 WROs or findings.

CBP encourages stakeholders to closely examine their supply chains to ensure their imported goods are not mined, produced, or manufactured, wholly or in part, with prohibited forms of labor. A list of all withhold release orders issued by CBP and findings published in the Federal Register is available here.

For more information, please contact Nicole Bivens Collinson or Elise Shibles.

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