Southern Shrimp Alliance Lauds U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Issuance of Five New Withhold Release Orders

On Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued five Withhold Release Orders (WRO) on a variety of goods imported into the United States that are produced through forced or prison labor. The WRO was issued pursuant to CBP’s authority under 19 U.S.C. 1307, banning the importation of goods produced through forced or child labor.

CBP issued WROs covering:

(1)  garments produced by Hetian Taida Apparel Co., Ltd. (Xinjiang, China) produced with prison or forced labor;

(2)  disposable rubber gloves produced by WRP Asia Pacific Sdn. Bhd. (Malaysia) produced with forced labor;

(3)  gold mined in artisanal small mines in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo mined with forced labor;

(4)  rough diamonds from the Marange Diamond Fields (Zimbabwe) mined with forced labor; and

(5)  bone black manufactured by Bonechar Carvão Ativado Do Brasil Ltda. (Brazil) produced with forced labor.

The WROs prevent the importation of these goods into the United States unless the importer can demonstrate that the merchandise at issue was not produced through forced labor.

CBP’s actions earlier this week are unprecedented in the history of its enforcement of laws prohibiting the importation of goods made through forced labor. According to agency’s list of WROs, the agency had issued a total of just eight WROs on goods from countries other than China since 1953, with two of those eight having been issued over the last two years. On Monday, CBP issued four WROs on products from countries other than China.

Prior to CBP’s issuance of WROs, concerns regarding the importation of these goods had been raised by non-governmental advocacy organizations and, in some cases, these concerns led U.S. companies to publicly announce that they had stopped sourcing from the supplier at issue. However, a review of bills of lading data indicate that goods from these suppliers continued to be imported into the United States through new importers, despite increased public scrutiny.

The issuance of these WROs reflect the CBP’s prioritization of eliminating slave and child labor from U.S. supply chains, initiated with the creation of a Forced Labor Division within the Trade Remedy Law Enforcement Directorate (TRLED) of CBP’s Office of International Trade.

“CBP’s actions this week are an important demonstration that this Administration is serious about preventing imports made from slave labor from entering our market,” said John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “For far too long, importers, including shrimp importers, have gotten away with feigning ignorance when slavery pollutes their supply chains. CBP’s announcement is a welcome step forward in the enforcement of our laws prohibiting the importation of these goods.”

Read U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Press Release, “CBP Issues Detention Orders Against Companies Suspected of Using Forced Labor” (Oct. 1, 2019) here:  https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-issues-detention-orders-against-companies-suspected-using-forced

Read U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s list of Withhold Release Orders under 19 U.S.C. 1307 here:  https://www.cbp.gov/trade/trade-community/programs-outreach/convict-importations/detention-orders

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