On August 26, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that for FY 2021 between October 1, 2020 and August 6, 2021, the agency had detained approximately $368 million ($367,743,052) worth of cargo in relation to forced labor by issuing Withhold Release Orders (WROs). As noted by the agency’s trade statistics, this represented a total number of 967 detained shipments during this period of time, which marks an increase of 331 stopped shipments from the previous release of statistics in June 2021. In terms of total value of detained cargo, this represented a 562% increase compared to FY 2020 where CBP detained $56 million ($55,541,383) worth of cargo in relation to forced labor.

This increase shows the U.S. government’s continued efforts to exclude goods suspected of using forced labor from entering the United States. During its forced labor investigations, CBP works to identify if any of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) 11 indicators of forced labor exist in an entity’s operations, which include the following:

  • Abuse of vulnerability
  • Deception
  • Restriction of movement
  • Isolation
  • Physical and sexual violence
  • Intimidation and threats
  • Retention of identity documents
  • Withholding of wages
  • Debt bondage
  • Abusive working and living conditions
  • 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 latest trade statistics are available here.

For more information on actions Withhold Release Orders (WROs) and forced labor violations, contact our team and see previous posts below.

CBP Issues Withhold Release Order (WRO) on Certain Silica-Based Products from Xinjiang, PRC | International Trade Law (cmtradelaw.com)

Customs Denies Protest and Excludes Shipment of Cotton Garments for Violation of Xinjiang Withhold Release Order (WRO) | International Trade Law (cmtradelaw.com)