On January 13, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) for cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China. This is the fourth WRO that CBP has issued since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021, and the second on products originating in Xinjiang. Eight of the 13 WRO that CBP issued in Fiscal Year 2020 were on goods made by forced labor in China.

Notably, while previous actions have targeted specific items and firms originating from and having a presence in Xinjiang, this is the first WRO to target entire product types. Compliance concerns raised by the apparel industry have been met with guidance from CBP.

 The Agency’s Press Release included 6 out of the 11 possible forced labor indicators:

  • Debt bondage
  • Restriction of movement
  • Isolation
  • Intimidation and threats
  • Withholding of wages
  • Abusive living and working conditions

Additional forced labor indicators include: Abuse of vulnerability, deception, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, and excessive overtime.

WROs are issued by the U.S. government when information reasonably but not conclusively indicates goods were made in whole or in part using Forced Labor. Merchandise detained under a WRO order must be exported immediately or a substantial submission made that provides specific information showing that the goods were not made with forced labor. To obtain a release of any shipment that has been subjected to a WRO, a certificate of origin along with this detailed statement regarding the merchandise’s production and supply chain origin must be submitted to CBP. CBP makes a determination on a case-by-case basis.

The Press Release is available here

The order is the latest U.S. action addressing rising global concerns over reports of forced labor in Xinjiang. For more information on actions addressing human rights and forced labor abuses, please see our January 12 post or contact John Brew, Jeffrey Snyder, Frances Hadfield, or Clayton Kaier.