Brussels proposes to ban by law the entry into the EU of products manufactured with forced labor

That nothing enters the European market that has been manufactured with forced labour. It is the proposal for legislation presented this Wednesday by the European Commission. The proposal, which comes after a communication published in February, It covers all types of products: those manufactured in the EU for internal consumption and exports, and imported goods, without mentioning specific companies or industries.

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According to ILO data, 27.6 million people are in a situation of forced labour, in many industries and on all continents. "Most forced labor takes place in the private economy," says the European Commission, "while there are also examples of state practice."

The European Commission says its proposal is based on “internationally agreed definitions and standards. National authorities will have the power to withdraw from the EU market products made with forced labour, after investigation. EU customs authorities will identify and stop products made with forced labor at EU borders."

A total of 160 million children around the world are in child labor. That is, one in ten children in the world, and their number is increasing. Nearly half of these children perform hazardous work. "Decent work is still not a reality for hundreds of millions of people around the world", recognizes the Community Executive, "despite the clear commitment of the international community in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda ”.

Brussels says it is committed to defending “the rights of workers and avoiding a race to the bottom, using all available instruments. The promotion of decent work throughout the world, including the elimination of child labor and forced labour, is a central element of this effort. The promotion of decent work around the world is key for the EU as a geopolitical actor that strongly supports individual rights and freedoms, even more so in a rapidly changing world of work and in a context of changing global relations”.

How would it work?

The national authorities of the Member States would be responsible for enforcing the ban. The authorities will open investigations on products on which there are well-founded suspicions that they have been made with forced labor. They can request information from companies and carry out controls and inspections, even in countries outside the EU. If the national authorities identify the existence of forced labor, “they will order the withdrawal of the products already placed on the market and will prohibit placing the products on the market and exporting them. The customs authorities of the Member States will be in charge of the execution at the borders of the EU”.

If national authorities cannot gather all the evidence they need, for example due to non-cooperation from a non-EU company or state authority, "they can make the decision based on the available evidence," he says. Brussels.

“The competent authorities will apply the principles of risk-based assessment and proportionality throughout the process”, explains the Commission: “Thus, the proposal takes into account, in particular, the situation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Without being exempt, SMEs will benefit from a specific design of the measure. That is, the competent authorities will take into account the size and resources of the economic operators concerned, and the scale of the risk of forced labor before launching a formal investigation. SMEs will also benefit from the support tools.”

The Commission will have to issue compliance guidelines 18 months after the entry into force of the regulation, which requires prior agreement with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU –the Governments–.

The guidelines will include guidance on forced labor due diligence and information on forced labor risk indicators. The new EU forced labor products network will serve as a platform for structured coordination and cooperation between competent authorities and the Commission.

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