A White paper from Jones Day says that it has long been the case that goods made with forced labour are not entitled to entry or importation into the US. US Customs and Border Protection may use Withhold Release Orders (WRO), or formal findings, to enforce this prohibition. It also says that imported goods are being more heavily scrutinised for evidence that forced labour was present in their supply chain, and the issuance of WRO and formal findings will likely be used more frequently than has been seen historically. If an importer is issued a WRO, or a formal finding, the goods will be denied entry or seized until the importer is able to affirmatively show that the goods were not, in fact, produced with forced labour. The White Paper explains that forced labour is defined as “convict labour, forced labour, or indentured labour under penal sanctions,” and includes forced child labour. It notes that there have been only 45 WRO issued since the first one was issued in 1953 (Chinese importers have received 32). One of the reasons for there being relatively few in the past was that, until revoked in 2016, an exception allowed the importation of goods produced with forced labour so long as the goods were not produced “in such quantities in the United States as to meet the consumptive demands of the United States”. However, while between 2000 and 2015, no WRO or formal findings were issued, 25 have been issued since 2016, with 13 WRO — 4 in 2016, 2 in 2018, and 7 in 2019. Then in January, President Trump issued an “Executive Order on Combating Human Trafficking and Online Child Exploitation in the United States”, which states that the Executive Branch will “prioritize its resources to vigorously prosecute offenders, to assist victims, and to provide prevention education to combat human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children”.
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