Bipartisan Senators Urge CBP To Stop Imports Of Clothing Made With Forced Labor By Ramping Up Oversight And Enforcement Of Supply Chains

WASHINGTON, D.C. — November 15, 2023 — U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Thom Tillis, R-N.C.,  Mark Warner, D-Va., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Tim Scott, R-S.C., called on U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure Chinese companies aren’t evading U.S. laws against forced labor and costing American jobs, by stepping up oversight and enforcement provisions in trade agreements with Central American and North American trading partners.

The senators urged Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller to enforce the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which allows the agency to conduct oversight of trading partners’ supply chains, including visits to and audits of apparel factories.

“Recent reports of textile and apparel mill closures in the United States raise serious concerns as the lack of effective customs enforcement has been cited repeatedly as a key factor contributing to declining demand,” the senators wrote. “Insufficient enforcement can create a pathway for banned Xinjiang cotton to infiltrate regional supply chains and undermine efforts to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. For this reason, robust and consistent enforcement of the origin and content rules in U.S. trade agreements, along with the longstanding U.S. ban on products made with forced labor, is essential to securing this supply chain and guaranteeing workers, businesses, and consumers the benefits bargained for in CAFTA-DR and USMCA.”

As a significant producer of cotton, it is critical that the United States take every step necessary to support domestic textile and apparel producers, the senators said, urging CBP  to take actions that are quicker, tougher, and directly responsive to the trade cheating that happens before these products are sent to the United States and keep those textiles from entering our country. U.S. trade agreements can’t be undercut on foreign soil.

The Senators highlighted several significant steps that could be taken immediately and efficiently to improve enforcement:

  • Significantly increasing on-site and surprise verifications of textile facilities in the CAFTA-DR and USMCA regions.
  • Providing technical assistance and information sharing arrangements with customs authorities in the CAFTA-DR and USMCA region to root out materials made with forced labor or country of origin labeling concerns that may ultimately be bound to the United States.\
  • Improving targeting of illicit or fraudulent shipments by providing a Spanish language version of e-Allegation and asking governments, companies, and NGOs in the region to share information regarding this reporting portal.
  • Conducting a comprehensive review of existing enforcement authorities and penalties for textiles and apparel, and creating a strategic plan that outlines how CBP will maximize its existing tools and resources to ensure full compliance with CAFTA-DR, USMCA, and other relevant trade rules.

Read the full letter to Acting Commissioner Miller here.

Posted: November 16, 2023

Source: UNITED STATES SENATE Committee on Finance