On May 10, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Regulations and Rulings issued a denial of a protest in response to a request for an Application for Further Review (AFR) concerning a shipment of cotton garments that were suspected of violating CBP’s Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (“XPCC”) Withhold Release Order (WRO). The WRO prohibits the importation of all cotton and cotton products produced by the XPCC, and its subordinate and affiliated entities. This WRO was issued due to rising concerns over reports of forced labor in Xinjiang.

In response to CBP’s April 9, 2021 exclusion letter, the importer filed the AFR, despite the expiration of the 3-month regulatory deadline. CBP noted that although the importer provided evidence relating to the sale, acquisition, source location, transportation, and delivery of the raw cotton used to produce the subject cotton garments in their March 30, 2021 response, they did not provide any probative evidence to establish that the imported cotton garments were not produced in part by forced labor by the XPCC. The importer had argued that because the raw cotton used to produce the subject cotton garments did not originate from XPCC or, for that matter, in China, they were not subject to the WRO, and should therefore be released.  Specifically, the importer argued that they had provided evidence to establish that the raw cotton used to produce the subject cotton garments was sourced from entities outside of China, specifically three (3) cotton suppliers in Australia, three (3) cotton suppliers in the United States, and one (1) cotton supplier in Brazil; however, the importer “has not provided substantial evidence to establish that the entities within the XPCC that processed that cotton into the subject goods did so without the use of forced labor.”

The ruling explained that in a press release of December 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that CBP personnel at all U.S. ports of entry “will detain shipments containing cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).” Accordingly, the shipment of cotton garments were excluded for violating the XPCC WRO and the subject goods were deemed inadmissible.

A copy of the ruling is available here.

Crowell & Moring has been successful in modifying WRO orders and obtaining the release of goods subject to a WRO. For more information on actions addressing human rights and forced labor abuses, contact our team and see previous posts below.

Xinjiang Archives | International Trade Law (cmtradelaw.com)

Forced Labor/U.K. Modern Slavery Act Archives | International Trade Law (cmtradelaw.com)