On September 28, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor published the 10th edition of its List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (“ILAB”) within the Department of Labor maintains a list of goods and their source countries which it has reason to believe are produced by child labor or forced labor in violation of international standards, as required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”) of 2005. Under the TVPRA, ILAB must submit a list of foreign-made goods that it has reason to believe are produced by forced and/or child labor in violation of international standards to Congress every two years. The 10th edition of the List comprises 158 goods from 77 countries, adding 32 goods, including two new ones: dairy products and açaí berries.
According to the Department of Labor, “ILAB drew on a broad body of evidence to trace, for the first time, goods tainted with forced or child labor as they move through complex global supply chains and which final and intermediate products contain them to produce these studies.”1 The September 28 report alleges that 27.6 million people are engaged in forced labor, with 57% of those being male and 43% of those being female.2 Of those 27.6 million, the report alleges that 3.9 million experience state imposed forced labor, 17.4 million experience non-state imposed forced labor, and 6.4 million experience forced sexual exploitation. The report claims that goods produced by forced labor in China are artificial flowers, Christmas decorations, coal, fish, footwear, garments, gloves, hair products, polysilicon, nails, thread/yarn, and tomato products, while products produced by child labor and forced labor are bricks, cotton, electronics, fireworks, textiles, and toys.3 The report alleges that China is “the country with the greatest number of products made with forced labor, including state-sponsored forced labor.”4
The report also includes three in-depth, supply-chain studies on lithium ion batteries, palm oil, and solar panels. The introduction by the Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, Thea Mei Lee, states that the ILAB is “drawing attention to critical supply chains in clean energy–highlighting China’s use of forced labor in polysilicon production (a key input in solar panels),” as well as the use of child labor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) for the mining of cobalt,5 the majority of which allegedly is then imported into China for the production of lithium batteries.6 According to the report, China owns or finances most cobalt mines in the DRC, and China imports almost 90 percent of its cobalt from the DRC.7
The report also focuses on the claim regarding force labor concerns in Xinjiang and the steps the U.S. Government is taking “to raise further awareness among companies that do business in or source goods from China.”8 These steps include joining the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Departments of States, Treasury ,Commerce, and Homeland Security in issuing an updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory in July 2021. Only two days before the publication of this report, Eric Choy, acting executive director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trade remedy law enforcement directorate, told The Dispatch that, from October 1, 2021, through mid-September 2022, “Customs and Border Protection targeted more than 3,600 shipments worth nearly $800 million from around the world for potential ties to forced labor. . . .”9 Of those 3,600 shipments, Choy stated that “around 1,500 were targeted under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, adding up to about $420 million.”10 Both the report and Choy’s comments make clear that alleged forced labor in China will remain a focus of multiple branches of the U.S. Government.