June 14,2016

Press Contact:

Ryan Carey (Wyden) 202-224-4515

Jenny Donohue/Rachel Petri (Brown) 202-224-3978

Wyden, Brown Call Meeting With Administration to Press for Strong Enforcement of Anti-Slave Labor Provision

Senators Successfully Passed Measure to Block Goods Made with Forced Labor from Entering U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called a meeting today with members of the Administration and advocacy groups to press for strong enforcement of their amendment to end the importation of products produced with forced labor into the United States. For nearly a century, a loophole allowed certain products made with forced or child labor into the U.S. if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand. The Senators successfully closed that loophole in February 2016 when President Obama signed the customs bill, which included their amendment, into law, and convened today’s meeting to engage all parties involved in ensuring the law is strictly enforced.

“It is shameful that for nearly a century a loophole in U.S. law allowed products into the country that were made with forced labor,” said Brown. “Everyone at today’s meeting is committed to combatting forced labor, and that commitment will help us meaningfully implement this law. I’m hopeful today’s dialogue will spur improved collaboration between the Administration and outside groups and lead to ongoing conversations about our efforts to stop the importation of products produced by slave labor.”

“By closing this egregious loophole and banning all products made by slave or child labor from entering our market, Congress and the President said economics should not trump human rights in the United States. Our customs agency has already stepped up and taken action against forced prisoner-made goods from China,” Wyden said. “The key to continuing our early success and making this prohibition as effective as possible is bringing together U.S. trade enforcers, human rights organizations, and the business community so that everyone is working in concert. This is about using the power of tough trade enforcement policies to protect American workers and values.”

The customs reauthorization, which was signed into law earlier this year, included language based on Brown and Wyden’s amendment to the customs reauthorization bill passed by the Senate in April. The language permanently eliminates an exemption in U.S. law that allows the import of certain products made with forced or child labor if there is not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand.

Now, Brown and Wyden are working with key members of the Administration and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who typically petition U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to initiate investigations, to fully enforce the law so no product made with forced labor enters the U.S.

The agencies tasked with enforcement of the law include CBP, the Department of Labor (DOL), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The goal of today’s meeting is to increase communication between these groups and outside advocacy groups focused on combatting forced labor. To improve collaboration, the Senators are requesting greater transparency in the petitioning process so petitions are acknowledged and petitioners are informed of whether an investigation will be launched. They would also like CBP to act within its authority and self-initiate investigations when they have reason to believe a product has been made with forced labor.

Today’s meeting was attended by:

  • Gil Kerlikowske, CBP Commissioner
  • Bruce Foucart, Director, Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center
  • Marcia Eugenio, Director, Department of Labor Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking
  • David Abramowitz, Vice President of Policy, Humanity United
  • Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director, Solidarity Center
  • Judy Gearhart, Executive Director, International Labor Rights Forum
  • Annick Febrey, Senior Associated, Human Rights First