Rep. Nunes: The U.S. Must Lead the World on Combatting Forced Labor

July 21, 2021 — Blog    — Opening Statements    — Press Releases    — Trade   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ways and Means Republican Member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) opened today’s Trade Subcommittee hearing examining the importance of leveraging the power of U.S. markets to help free millions of people around the world who are enslaved by forced labor.

CLICK HERE to watch Rep. Nunes’s full opening remarks.

 

Rep. Nunes reaffirmed Republicans’ commitment to working across the aisle to address these abuses:

 

“We must deny access to our enormous market for companies and countries that perpetrate these abuses.

 

“In 2016, this Committee led the way, on a bipartisan basis, in eliminating the ‘consumptive demand’ loophole from the outright ban on products made with forced labor in Section 307 of the 1930 Tariff Act.  

 

“A few years later, we worked with our USMCA partners to extend the U.S. ban on goods produced with forced labor throughout North America.  We are now leading the world in combatting forced labor, and our customs officials must continue to effectively enforce the Section 307 ban without harming the vulnerable communities it aims to protect.”

 

On the need for Congress, business leaders, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to work closely to ensure supply chains are free of forced labor, Rep. Nunes said:

 

“Nevertheless, we must consider whether additional legislation could help end this modern-day slavery. We must also consider how Congress and U.S. customs officials can better assist importers to proactively eradicate goods produced with force labor from their supply chains.”

Finally, Rep. Nunes emphasized the U.S.’s strong legal regime to combat forced labor, and the ways in which Congress can leverage the power of our market against these abuses:

 

“By protecting due process throughout the investigation and enforcement process, we can ensure that we strictly prohibit goods made with forced labor while helping importers to verify to customs officials that they are observing all relevant laws.

 

“This includes sharing best practices for documenting and mapping supply chains as well as enabling importers to work with their suppliers to address labor rights violations.”

 

Rep. Nunes’ full opening remarks as prepared appear below.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing on leveraging the power of the U.S. market to combat the evils of forced labor worldwide.  Our Trade Subcommittee hearing last September focused on forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and shined a light on the atrocities that Communist China is committing against its own people.  Since 2017, China has arbitrarily detained and persecuted over 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in extrajudicial mass “re-education” camps, subjecting them to forced labor, torture, political indoctrination, and other severe human rights abuses.  We know that China is seeking to profit from this oppression by subsidizing companies that build factories near these mass internment sites.

 

To combat these outrageous abuses, we must strictly enforce our ban on importing goods produced under these exploitative conditions. Today’s hearing provides us with an opportunity to examine the prevalence of forced labor in other markets.

 

I am particularly concerned about the prevalence of forced labor in our agricultural supply chains, as well as on the distant-water fishing fleets that log millions of hours around the globe harvesting fish on the high seas.  China’s distant-water fishing fleet is the world’s largest, and the State Department has identified numerous incidents of forced labor on Chinese-flagged fishing vessels.  On some of these boats, workers’ identity documents are stolen, they are forced to work 18 to 22 hours a day, they are subject to verbal and physical abuse, and they are forcibly prevented from leaving the vessels.

 

We must deny access to our enormous market for companies and countries that perpetrate these abuses. In 2016, this Committee led the way, on a bipartisan basis, in eliminating the “consumptive demand” loophole from the outright ban on products made with forced labor in Section 307 of the 1930 Tariff Act.  A few years later, we worked with our USMCA partners to extend the U.S. ban on goods produced with forced labor throughout North America.  We are now leading the world in combatting forced labor, and our customs officials must continue to effectively enforce the Section 307 ban without harming the vulnerable communities it aims to protect.

 

Nevertheless, we must consider whether additional legislation could help end this modern-day slavery. We must also consider how Congress and U.S. customs officials can better assist importers to proactively eradicate goods produced with force labor from their supply chains.  By protecting due process throughout the investigation and enforcement process, we can ensure that we strictly prohibit goods made with forced labor while helping importers to verify to customs officials that they are observing all relevant laws. This includes sharing best practices for documenting and mapping supply chains as well as enabling importers to work with their suppliers to address labor rights violations.

 

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for calling this important hearing, and thank you to the witnesses for taking the time to be here before us today—I look forward to hearing your testimony.