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Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issued a request for comments to assist the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (“FLETF”) with implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (“UFLPA”).  The UFLPA, signed by President Biden on December 23, 2021, creates a rebuttable presumption that goods manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“Xinjiang”) or produced by an entity on a number of lists to be produced, will be denied entry into the U.S. under section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307).  The UFLPA was passed in response to the alleged use of forced labor of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tibetans, and other persecuted groups in China.  Readers can learn more about the UFLPA and the rebuttable presumption, which goes into effect on June 21, 2022, in our previous post following the UFLPA’s enactment.

While the UFLPA will almost certainly result in additional withhold release orders (“WROs”) on goods manufactured wholly or in part  by entities in China, DHS’ request for comments does not provide the public with new details about investigations and enforcement practices or procedures that DHS has utilized in the Xinjiang-related WROs issued on certain silica-based products as well as certain cotton and tomato products.  Instead, the request for comments poses eighteen (18) open-ended questions.

U.S. importers potentially affected by WROs are encouraged to submit comments to ensure a balanced and fully accurate record.  Some questions of particular importance include:

  • What due diligence, effective supply chain tracing, and supply chain management measures can importers leverage to ensure that they do not import any goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor from the People’s Republic of China, especially from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region?
  • What type, nature, and extent of evidence can companies provide to reasonably demonstrate that goods originating in the People’s Republic of China were not mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region?
  • To what extent is there a need for a common set of supply chain traceability and verification standards, through a widely endorsed protocol, and what current government or private sector infrastructure exists to support such a protocol?
  • What measures can be taken to trace the origin of goods, offer greater supply chain transparency, and identify third-country supply chain routes for goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the People’s Republic of China?

Comments are due on March 10, 2022 at 11:59 PM.  Husch Blackwell will continue to monitor UFLPA developments including the anticipated reports, lists, and implementing regulations.  For additional guidance or assistance with writing comments please contact Robert Stang or any other member of Husch Blackwell’s International Trade and Supply Chain team.