Ban on products made with forced labour: Trade Committee presents its recommendations 

Press Releases 
 
 

Forced labour products should not be allowed into the EU and global cooperation is essential to eradicate forced labour, stated the Trade Committee in a resolution adopted Monday.

The Committee on International Trade calls for a WTO-compatible trade instrument to ban the import and export of products made or transported by forced labour.

Sufficient evidence

The committee recommends that forced labour products be banned on the basis of production site, importer, company, transporter, or the particular region in case of state-sponsored forced labour. In practice, public authorities should detain and seize the goods at the EU borders in case there is “sufficient evidence” that the goods were made or transported by forced labour, MEPs say. The importer should have the burden of proof to show the absence of forced labour for the release of the cargo.

To help importers, a public list of sanctioned companies, regions and producers should be established, says the committee, which argues for assistance to SMEs to cope with the new rules.

Define forced labour

The MEPs underline that for the determination of what counts as a product of forced labour, the items should be measured against International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicators which include abuse of vulnerability, restriction of movement, withholding identity documents and debt bondage.

Global issue

The Trade Committee calls for cooperation with like-minded partners to ensure that goods banned on the EU market do not simply get re-routed to other markets. It underlines: a ban on forced labour products will in itself not eradicate forced labour. Tackling this global issue requires a collective solution involving dialogue with third countries, technical assistance and capacity building as well as awareness raising.

Quote

"The EU needs to step up in the fight against forced labour and join forces with allies around the globe to combat these inhumane practices. We urgently need to put an instrument in place that ensures we target products whose production or transport exploit forced labour and stop their circulation. We have clearly laid out the principles such an instrument needs to adhere to, now it's time for the Commission to deliver," said the chair of the committee, Bernd Lange (S&D, DE).

The resolution was adopted by 37 votes, with no votes against and five abstentions.

Next steps

The draft resolution is scheduled to be debated in the June plenary session (June 6-9), when the House hears the Commission’s answer to the committee’s questions, also adopted today. Trade MEPs expect the resolution to feed into the Commission’s proposal, announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address of 2021, on how to ban forced labour products. The new legislative instrument is planned for September 2022.

Background

According to the Commission, globally 160 million children – one in ten worldwide – are in child labour, and 25 million people are in a situation of forced labour.