The European Parliament’s Internal Market and International Trade Committees explain if this proposed regulation is ratified, it will introduce a comprehensive framework that would suspend the import and export of company-related goods at the EU’s borders if it is proven that it has used forced labour.

Companies would also have to withdraw goods that have already reached the borders and these goods would be donated, recycled, or destroyed.

The EU Commission began the first steps towards this legislation back in September, when it unveiled plans to tackle forced labour from circulating within the EU market.

While in its preliminary phase, the EU Commission planned to assess forced labour risks based on different sources of information that would facilitate the identification of risks and help focus their efforts.

From this, a group of 16 NGOs, coalitions and trade unions, including IndustriAll European Trade Union, the Clean Clothes Campaign Europe and the World Uyghur Congress, wrote a joint letter to the European Commission and urged for “impactful” amendments to be made to its proposal.

The NGOs made a number of recommended adjustments to the EU’s forced labour eradication proposal which the EU has now included in the legislation, such as: “protecting whistle-blowers, providing remedy to victims and defending businesses and SMEs from unethical competition,” as explained by co-rapporteur Samira Rafaela.

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MEPs have introduced modifications to the initial Commission proposal to now include high-risk areas and economic sectors where forced labour is prevalent, shifting the responsibility of proof onto companies, and not on the authorities. Authorities would no longer need to prove that people have been forced to work under the new version of the draft legislation.

The committees also suggested that goods removed from the market can only be reintroduced once companies have terminated forced labour use and addressed relevant issues.

The EU parliament has also revised its definition of forced labour to align with the standards set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and include “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily”.

Co-rapporteur, Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques says: “We have ensured that products made with forced labour are banned from the internal market until workers are compensated for the harm done to them. Banning forced labour also protects companies that follow the rules from unfair competition. Finally, we make it easier to prove state-imposed forced labour.”

The draft report was adopted with 66 votes for, no votes against and ten abstentions. Once the amended legislation has been confirmed as the European Parliament’s negotiating mandate, and the European Council has adopted its position, talks will start over the final shape of the legislation.