Lars-Erik Hjelm Quoted by Inside U.S. Trade on CBP and Forced Labor Goods

Akin Gump international trade partner Lars-Erik Hjelm has been quoted by Inside U.S. Trade for its article “CBP, Backed By New Law, To Step Up Fight Against Forced Labor Goods,” on a Trade Enforcement Task Force recently created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that will increase efforts to prevent the importation into the United States of goods made with forced labor.

According to the publication, a forced labor statute included as part of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act closes a loophole that allowed products made with forced labor to be imported if the merchandise was not available in the United States.

Hjelm said that closing this loophole had been a goal both of NGOs and of domestic producers seeking to bar competing foreign products from entering the U.S. market. He added, “The original legislative purpose of the Forced Labor Statute was not to advance corporate social responsibility per se, but to protect domestic industry from unfair competition.”

He also noted that the statue allows any person with “reason to believe” products are being made with forced labor to petition CBP without any demonstrated interest in the imported items.

Hjelm said that CBP’s increased scrutiny could affect imports from China, which has already been the subject of most forced labor investigations, thanks to information from the State Department and other government agencies about forced labor camps in China.

He added that, shortly after the bill passed, CBP issued detention orders indicating a Chinese company and its subsidiaries use convict labor in producing a range of commodities and that the agency will likely follow through with a published finding that bars shipments of this company’s products from the U.S. market.