The Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee (COAC) of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has indicated that CBP intends to add forced labor to its list of priority trade issues. The COAC issued draft recommendations on how to “ensure a more holistic U.S. government-wide approach to addressing forced labor.” The COAC Forced Labor Working Group (FLWG) recommendations urge CBP to collaborate with other agencies and the private sector to develop objective metrics for success in combating forced labor.

The current Priority Trade Issues identified are: (1) agriculture and quota; (2) antidumping and countervailing duties; (3) free trade agreements; (4) import safety; (5) intellectual property rights; (6) revenue; and (7) textiles and wearing apparel. Based on the report, CBP briefed the FLWG on its intent to add forced labor as a Priority Trade Issue in the near future.

The report made four specific recommendations that CBP should consider if it does add forced labor as a Priority Trade Issue, namely, that CBP should:

  1. Take a collaborative, multi-agency approach with various agencies including the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and develop a synchronized strategy across the government on forced labor;
  2. Expand communication and cooperation with trade sectors and industries to identify best practices, as highlighted in the Industry Collaboration White Paper;
  3. Develop an objective methodology to measure the success of CBP’s forced labor informed compliance, facilitation, enforcement and risk mitigation that is not based on enforcement output (e.g. number of WROs and detentions issued); and
  4. Apply the same principles, tools, guidance and outreach to forced labor as is the case with the other Priority Trade Issues.

As we have noted in previous posts on recent government enforcement efforts related to forced labor in the Xinjiang region, like CBP’s Withhold Release Order (WRO) and Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control’s sanctions, we expect forced labor enforcement to continue to expand as a priority across the trade agencies.