Forced Labor Enforcement Developments

Ship at sea with containers with PRC flag

It’s just a little over a year ago that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act became law. From all appearances, Customs and Border Protection has been diligent in enforcing its prohibitions and those of 19 U.S.C. § 1307According to the agency

“In November 2022, CBP identified 444 entries valued at more than $128 million for further examination based on the suspected use of forced labor, and which may be subject to a Withhold Release Order, Finding, or the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’s rebuttable presumption, and prohibited importation into the United States under 19 U.S.C. § 1307.” 

Considering that the UFLPA was not effective until June 21, 2022, I believe those numbers look impressive. 444 entries may be a small fraction of all made in November, but there are two points to keep in mind here: if you’re the importer of one of the entries identified for further examination, you are caught in the forced labor enforcement mechanism, and CBP’s ability to identify problematic entries will only grow as time goes on.

Forced Labor Compliance Added as a CTPAT Criterion

Another UFLPA-related compliance mandate was recently adopted for participants in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Trade Compliance program. This program provides substantial benefits to importers that meet specified compliance requirements and agree to continue doing so. It always struck me as a pretty good deal, especially since importers should adopt effective compliance measures in any event.

CBP has now included six forced labor compliance criteria for CTPAT Trade Compliance program participants, set forth at pages 15-16 of the program Handbook. New applicants must adopt conforming measures as a condition of admission to the program, while current members have until August 23, 2023 to do so. 

Trade Compliance Program Offers Forced Labor-Related Benefits

I’ve mentioned before that importers and their supply chain should have programs in place to minimize the risk of UFLPA violations. Meeting the Trade Compliance program criteria would be advisable even for non-members of the program. As an added incentive to join, CBP offers more favorable treatment to members that attempt to enter possibly violative merchandise, as follows:. 

Front of the Line Admissibility Review: CTPAT Trade Compliance partners who have shipments detained due to forced labor will have their admissibility packages prioritized for review by the appropriate Center of Excellence and Expertise (Center). The importer must assert that they are an active member CTPAT Trade Compliance program and request prioritized review at the time that supporting documentation is submitted to CBP. Upon this declaration, the Center should prioritize the processing of the package above other non-CTPAT Trade Compliance partner packages received within the Center Team or Division, to the best of their ability.

Redelivery Hold: CTPAT Trade Compliance partners who have shipments arrive at their facility that are later determined to be held due to ties to forced labor, where redelivery is normally requested, may hold their shipments intact at their facility, rather than redelivering the goods to CBP until an admissibility determination is made or until such time that a physical inspection is required.

Detained Withhold Release Order Shipments Move to Bonded Facility: CTPAT Trade Compliance partners who have a shipment detained by CBP due to a Withhold Release Order, will be allowed to move the goods to a bonded facility to be held intact until such time that an admissibility determination is made by CBP. 

Of course, avoiding possible violations in the first place will obviate the need for these measures, but their availability may be of some help in the event CBP suspects one has occurred.

All indications are that CBP will sharpen its focus on forced labor enforcement in 2023. All importers, whether or not they are Trade Compliance program participants, should ensure they and their suppliers have adequate safeguards in place.

Thompson & Associates, PLLC provides representation in all aspects of customs laws and regulations, specializing in export and import regulations and international business counseling. We can be reached at 202-772-2039 or online.


Get delivered once a week to your inbox, a hand-picked list of the latest news on international trade compliance issues as well as the latest articles from George W. Thompson.