WASHINGTON — U.S. Customs and Border Protection halted the import of products from five countries on Monday in a rare move aimed at countering forced labor abroad.
The agency issued what is known as Withhold Release Orders (WROs), which are intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the US.
The products include rough diamonds, gold and disposable rubber gloves, and are from a range of countries, including China, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Brazil.
“A major part of CBP’s mission is facilitating legitimate trade and travel,” said Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. “CBP’s issuing of these five withhold release orders shows that if we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves.”
CBP only issued one other order in 2019, against tuna and tuna products, according to agency data.
The US has had a ban on goods which use forced labor since 1930, but enforcement was rare until Congress changed the law in 2016, according to the law firm Arnold & Porter.
CBP needs information that reasonably, but not conclusively, indicates that merchandise being imported had used forced labor for it to be banned. Investigations can be triggered in several ways, including through news reports and tips from the public or trade community, according to the agency.
Importers can either export their products or demonstrate that forced labor wasn’t used to have it released into the US.