Trade and Forced Labor

Forced labor must not be tolerated in global supply chains. We fight to change the systems that lead to forced labor.

Things to Know

Forced labor is a feature, not a bug, in global supply chains.

The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million people are held in conditions of forced labor around the world.

Experts estimate that $144 billion worth of goods made using forced labor enter the U.S. market each year.

The most imported at-risk goods include electronics, apparel, cocoa, seafood, timber, and cotton.

In FY2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained 1,213 shipments of goods suspected of being made using forced labor.

The total value of these shipments was $414 million. Such detentions at port demonstrate the risk to corporations when they fail to eliminate forced labor from their supply chains.

Impact

We have successfully pressed for increased enforcement of the Tariff Act, a powerful tool to combat forced labor in global supply chains.

Forced Labor Is a Feature, Not a Bug, in Global Supply Chains

Around the globe, workers face wage theft, debt bondage, physical violence, horrendous living conditions, seizure of identity documents, steep recruitment fees, and threats of deportation.

Trade Remedies: Real Risk for Corporations

Trade sanctions under the Tariff Act have real consequences for companies that do not eliminate forced labor in their supply chains. The Human Trafficking Legal Center’s work on the Tariff Act has raised the profile and increased the accessibility of this tool.

Worker Agency

Workers must be at the center of trade remedies and should be the biggest beneficiaries. Workers held in forced labor must receive just and equitable remediation from the companies that held them in these conditions. And workers should be involved in decision-making on remedies.

Resources

Importing Freedom: Using the U.S. Tariff Act to Combat Forced Labor in Supply Chains
The Promise Institute for Human Rights Panel on Sanctions and Human Rights Enforcement (March 2021)
National Endowment Democracy Panel on Forced Labor In Turkmenistan’s 2020 Cotton Harvest (April 2021)

Public Petitions

  • Country: Uzbekistan
  • Product: Cotton
  • Year Filed: 2013
  • Petitioner: International Labor Rights Forum; Cotton Campaign

Link: https://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications/Petition_to_US_Custom_April_30_2013.pdf

  • Country: Turkmenistan
  • Product: Cotton
  • Year Filed: 2016
  • Petitioner: International Labor Rights Forum; Alternative Turkmenistan News

Link: https://laborrights.org/releases/ilrf-files-complaint-halt-imports-forced-labor-made-goods-turkmenistan

  • Country: Malaysia
  • Product: Palm Oil
  • Year Filed: 2019
  • Petitioner: International Labor Rights Forum; Rainforest Action Network; SumOfUs

Link:  https://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications/FGV_Tariff_Act.pdf

  • Country: Côte d’Ivoire
  • Product: Cocoa
  • Year Filed: 2020
  • Petitioner: International Labor Rights Forum; Rainforest Action Network; SumOfUs

Link: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5810dda3e3df28ce37b58357/t/5e4607e90bd7ed452a1c8c6e/1581647858374/FINAL+307+PETITION+WITH+EXHIBITS.pdf 

  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Product: Apparel Products
  • Year Filed: 2021
  • Petitioner: Liberty Shared

Link: https://libertyshared.org/apparel-industry

  • Country: China
  • Product: Cotton
  • Year Filed: 2020
  • Petitioner: Coalition

Link:  https://www.iccr.org/human-rights-groups-call-us-regional-ban-imports-china-made-uyghur-forced-labor

Data Story

Since an amendment in 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ramped up enforcement of Section 307 of the Tariff Act, which prohibits entry into U.S. markets of goods produced in whole or part with forced labor.

Related Publications

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