The US and Japan have announced plans to launch a task force to protect human rights in supply chains.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on creating the task force for the promotion of human rights and international labour standards in supply chains as part of the US-Japan Partnership on Trade.
The task force will help the two countries exchange information and increase dialogue between businesses and worker organisations.
“These areas of cooperation are designed to protect workers and enhance predictability and clarity for businesses as they seek to contribute to resilient and sustainable supply chains,” said US trade representative Katherine Tai.
She said the government of Japan “has consistently been a trusted partner in the fight to promote workers’ rights and drive the race to the top in trade”.
“Developing new tools that bring together the combined expertise of agencies across the governments of the United States and Japan will help contribute to tackling worker exploitation in global supply chains,” she added.
Agencies that will be involved in the task force include the Office of the US Trade Representative and departments of State, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Labor, Homeland Security as well as Customs and Border Protection.
On Japan’s side, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be the main participants.
METI recently published guidelines to oblige Japanese companies to prevent human rights related abuses in their global supply chains.
The guidelines apply to every corporate entity in Japan, regardless of size or sector. Law firm Linklaters advised Japanese firms to implement a human rights policy defining what is expected of suppliers based on potential impacts to human rights.
The firm also advised Japanese firms to carry out due diligence to identify, prioritise and address potential impacts to human rights such as those that might affect supply chains.
Meanwhile, the US Senate Finance Committee has launched an investigation into the supply chains of carmakers due to fears they include materials produced with forced labour.
The inquiry is demanding answers from car companies concerning their efforts to map supply chain risk and links to the Xinjiang province of China, where abuses of the Uyghur Muslim community have been documented.
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