The European Commission presented on Wednesday, September 14 a draft regulation intended to ban products from the European market from the forced labor market, legislation likely to concern in particular Chinese production involving the Uyghur Muslim minority.
The European ban covers all products resulting from forced labour, totally or partially, regardless of where they are produced or grown. “It is an ambitious proposal. The scope is very wide because the choice made by the Commission is not to target a country, an industry or an activity but to prohibit the sale of any product which could come directly or indirectly forced labor”explains Me Jan Dunin-Wasowicz, lawyer specializing in international trade at Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
“Being industrial and technological leaders means asserting ourselves more in defending our values and defining our rules and standards”said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.
27.6 million people affected by forced labor worldwide
Forced labor affects some 27.6 million people worldwide, including 3.3 million children, according to figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO). According to the draft EU legislation, EU countries will be responsible for implementing the ban, assessing whether any products are likely to come from forced labour. They will be able to base themselves on the information available, in particular from NGOs, and from a database which will be coordinated by the Commission.
It will then be up to the States to open investigations. In the event of a lack of cooperation from the company or the country concerned, a country may decide to withdraw from the European market or ban the product identified as resulting from forced labour. The customs services will be responsible for seizing the products thus banned.
“It will be up to each country to decide which authority will do this. This is an important step in the fight against forced labor because it creates a common reference within the EU. The sharing of information will be crucial, there will be different schemes for sharing information, as well as a principle of validity and recognition of decisions in other Member States”explains Me Jan Dunin-Wasowicz.
” Finally ! This is a crucial step in our fight against modern slavery.”rejoiced the French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann (S & D group), very committed to the cause of the Uyghurs. “The proposed text has shortcomings, we are going, in Parliament, to make it more ambitious and effective, on the level of proof required and on the deadlines for example, but it marks undeniable progress”estimated the elected official, who had launched a petition containing a list of brands accused of benefiting from forced labor in order to raise consumer awareness.
“To ensure that consumers can have more confidence in suppliers”this is also the objective of this Commission proposal, explains Jan Dunin-Wasowicz.