Disposable rubber gloves from a supplier in Malaysia are one of the products blocked by the CBP © Visual China Group via Getty Images
Disposable rubber gloves from a supplier in Malaysia are one of the products blocked by the CBP © Visual China Group via Getty Images

US blocks products linked to forced labour

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued five Withhold Release Orders (WROs) on products connected to forced labour. 

The WROs cover products from five countries which the CBP claimed had been produced, in whole or in part, by forced labour.

Under US law, it is illegal to import goods into the country which use convict labour, forced or child labour. 

In a press conference, Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner at the CBP Office of Trade said the CBP had been investigating a number of potential instances of forced labour, adding that it is a priority issue.

Investigations by the CDP may be initiated a number of ways, including based on news reports and tips from either the public or trade community. 

She added “long, multi-tiered, opaque supply chains” often used to produce consumer goods presents a “unique problem set”. 

The products covered by the WROs are: 

  • Garments produced by Hetian Taida Apparel Co. in Xinjiang, China.

  • Disposable rubber gloves produced in Malaysia by WRP Asia Pacific.

  • Gold mined in artisanal small mines (ASM) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

  • Rough diamonds from the Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe.

  • Bone black (a form of charcoal) manufactured in Brazil by Bonechar Carvão Ativado Do Brasil.

Smith added when “information reasonably, but non-conclusively indicates that merchandise is produced by forced labour is being, or likely to be, imported into the United States,” the organisation may detain goods by issuing a WRO.

“Importers have the opportunity to either re-export the detained shipments at any time, or to submit information to CBP demonstrating that the goods are not in violation,” she added. 

Meanwhile, the UK government has partnered with CIPS to work towards ensuring government supply chains are slavery-free and to offer online training on how to identify and report modern slavery.

Ethical training forms have been developed to ensure procurement staff drive best practice across the whole of government. 

E-learning resources on ethical supply chains have also been created to give procurement professionals an understanding of how to act ethically in their organisations. The lessons have been designed to tackle issues such as modern slavery, fraud, bribery and corruption, human rights abuses and the impact of procurement on the environment.

The training forms part of a government-wide policy, which was announced earlier this year, to ensure those engaged in commercial activities, including procurement, contract and supplier relationship management, are able to actively participate in the continued drive for more ethical practice.

Malcolm Harrison, group CEO, CIPS said: “We welcome this announcement and are pleased to continue our work with the government on this issue of immense importance – our partnership underpins our commitment to ensure modern day slavery is eradicated and we are proud of the role we have played in this initiative.”

Gareth Rhys Williams, government chief commercial officer at the Cabinet Office, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of this modern slavery policy and guide. It will help the public sector commercial teams identify and work towards eliminating modern slavery in our supply chains. It has been developed in consultation with experts from inside and outside government, so I hope that the tools in it will also be useful for the private sector. Tackling modern slavery is a shared endeavour, and one we must work on urgently.

“Professionals must be equipped with the best possible training and guidance so they have the confidence to tackle the issue appropriately. So I am pleased that the Government Commercial Function is working with CIPS to help tackle this crime.”

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