How the United States Uses Trade to Discourage Forced Labor
Indonesian maritime workers protest forced labor on fishing boats during a demonstration in December 2020 outside the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Jakarta. (© Bay Ismoyo / AFP / Getty Images)
The United States is working to end forced labor around the world. Therefore, it will not import seafood from a fishing fleet based in the People’s Republic of China.
A year-long investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection found that the PRC-based Dalian Ocean Fishing Company demonstrated the 11 International Labor Organization Forced Labor Indicators (PDF, 4.2 MB). On May 28, CBP banned seafood harvested in Dalian from entering the United States.
CBP cited evidence of forced labor, identifying indicators such as withheld wages, abusive living conditions and physical violence.
“Companies that exploit their workers have no place to do business in the United States,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said. This ordinance “will ensure that we will continue to protect the human rights of those who work in the deep-sea fishing industry.”
Most of the workers in the fleet are from Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
US law prohibits the importation of products made, in whole or in part, by convicted, forced or contract labor. The US government advises companies to review their supply chains to prevent and combat forced labor. The government has also taken many steps to stop the problem at its source.
In January, CBP blocked the entry of all cotton and tomato products from China’s Xinjiang region to the United States due to evidence of forced labor. And in July 2020, CBP agents arrested 13 tonnes of human hair products originally from Xinjiang for the same reason.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has interned more than one million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang and subjected many of them to forced labor, according to the US State and Labor Departments. .
The US Department of Labor 2020 list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor, released in September, found that 17 products are made with forced labor in the PRC, more than any other country in the world.
The United States is also working with the international community to defend workers’ rights. the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement includes provisions which prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced labor into North America.
As part of the ongoing World Trade Organization negotiations on subsidies that, in part, contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the Office of the United States Trade Representative submitted a proposal May 26, urging countries to end forced labor on fishing vessels, noting that forced labor often accompanies IUU fishing.
“promote the responsibility of those who use forced labor to exploit individuals for profit, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said on May 28.We will work with our international partners to ensure that the speechless are heard and protected.