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January 27, 2022updated 31 Jan 2022 4:07am

US developing trade strategy to combat forced labour

The US Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) is conducting an interagency review of its trade tools and policies to fight forced labour.

By Hannah Abdulla

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) said it is developing its ever first focused trade strategy to combat forced labour.

The move is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to prevent human trafficking globally and address the systems that make communities vulnerable to labour exploitation, USTR Katherine Tai said.

“Eradicating forced labour is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity. Doing so also helps protect workers from unfair competition and raises global labour standards,” Ambassador Tai noted. “In order to prevent this human exploitation, and protect the 25 million individuals – including women and children – forced to work against their will in harsh conditions, we need to come together as a global community and create collective action. I am committed to working with our trade partners to create a fair, rules-based international trading system where the use of forced labour in traded goods and services, including forced child labour, becomes a thing of the past.”

The development of the strategy will include a thorough, interagency review of USTR’s existing trade policies and tools used to combat forced labour, including forced child labour, to determine areas that may need strengthening and gaps that need to be filled. USTR will use this analysis to establish objectives, priorities, new tools, and key action items to advance the Administration’s goals to combat forced labour.

The agency said it will undertake an inclusive process that maximises input from stakeholders, including labour organizations, civil society, survivors, and the private sector.

Tai said the USTR will continue to advance its work in its trade engagements around the world. This will include:

  • Using the Trade and Technology Council to develop concrete actions for the United States and EU to coordinate on combatting forced and child labour;
  • Monitoring and upholding forced labour obligations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced labour; and
  • Contributing expertise on global supply chains in the implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

“By working with our trade partners, including those in the Indo-Pacific, we will demonstrate that we can raise global labour standards and provide an example for the rest of the world to follow,” she added.

Recent research has found modern slavery takes place in multiple sector supply chains and should be addressed across sectors.

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