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Capabilities / Forced Labor

Forced Labor

Whether sourcing raw materials or manufactured products, our team helps clients navigate changes in forced labor law enforcement and compliance.

The use of forced labor has become a major political and legal issue, leading to intense scrutiny of global supply chains. When companies are suspected of a supply chain that involves forced labor—even unwittingly—the resulting legal, regulatory, and reputational fallout can be devastating. Additionally, business operations can suffer profoundly if key products and components are detained by government authorities, who often provide no timetable, or little if any detailed rationale or supporting evidence, for their law enforcement actions. Proactive compliance, therefore, becomes a key priority in maintaining healthy supply chains.

Our team of attorneys and supply chain professionals assist clients with proactive approaches to preparing risk analyses and compliance plans in this fast-changing area of international trade law. Our ability to anticipate issues enables clients to plan and modify sourcing behavior to minimize the impact of changes arising from new products of concern, new legislation, withhold release orders (WROs), and detentions. Our team has gained specific experience in the following areas of concern.

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA)

Implemented in June 2022, UFLPA applies to goods using inputs, in whole or in part, made from forced labor from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China, and our team has assisted clients in complying with the UFLPA across numerous product types, ranging from textiles to subcomponents used in solar panel manufacturing and battery technologies.

The burdens of complying with the UFLPA are far more cumbersome than complying with most import regulations. Goods can be detained with little specificity as to the reason of the detention. If goods are detained, an importer must demonstrate by clear-and-convincing evidence that its goods do not contain inputs from the XUAR.  This requirement applies even if the goods were manufactured in a third country, such as Vietnam, and tracing the sourcing applies not just to the first tier of inputs, but all the way back to the original source.

Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)

CAATSA is directed to goods manufactured with forced labor in Iran, Russia, or North Korea, and similar to the UFLPA, it employs the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence to clear detained goods for import into the U.S. Our team has the experience and multidisciplinary skills needed to analyze complex supply chains and identify problem areas implicated by CAATSA.

Solutions-Based Compliance

Our team’s approach seeks to present clients with business-oriented solutions to address their potential problems. There are times that the number of items being imported by a company is so numerous—and production so complicated—that it is nearly impossible to track down the sources of every single input. No matter how simple or complex your supply chain, our team assists clients in determining which items are of greatest priority as it starts it compliance program, and we advise on how to build, operate, and maintain a multi-pronged approach to forced labor enforcement and compliance through some or all of the steps below:

  • Taking stock of what is being imported, from where, and focusing on ensuring that forced labor compliance measures are addressed in policy manuals, codes of conduct, sales, and purchase documentation including but not limited to purchase orders, contracts, and invoices.
  • Conducting a risk assessment to evaluate weak links in both the supply chain and supporting documentation and modify any documentation that lacks clarity.
  • Coordinating and communicating with suppliers to obtain information to mitigate risk by gathering information on the supplier’s raw material supply chain and determining the suppliers’ willingness both to coordinate with a compliance program and to provide information needed for any detention.
  • Implementing a compliance plan for responding to any future Customs audits or detentions.

Representative Experience

  • Assisted fast-moving consumer goods company with setting up a forced labor compliance program and establishing best practices.
  • Counseled U.S. sporting goods and apparel distributor on responding to UFLPA detention notices issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and assisted with preventative risk assessment of foreign suppliers and supply chain relating to forced labor compliance.
  • Analyzed supply chain documentation for a large apparel company importing cotton apparel from China and surrounding countries to identify gaps in documentation and develop best practices.
  • Filed protests and obtained partial release on excluded apparel.
  • Filed responses to CBP Withhold Release Order (WRO) on goods from Brazil resulting in CBP modifying and thereafter cancelling the WRO.