Givens & Johnston is pleased to announce that Joseph “Jay” Acayan has become the first attorney in the country to participate in and assist a client navigate through a CBP Forced Labor audit. The audit was conducted by Regulatory Audit and Agency Advisory Services, Houston Field Office, and was part of a larger Focused Assessment.
CBP’s recent emphasis on forced labor violations is driven by a sense of social responsibility, and is mandated by Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1307), which prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced or indentured child labor – including forced child labor. Such merchandise is subject to exclusion and/or seizure, and may lead to penalties, and criminal investigation of the importer. The International Labour Organization estimated that in 2019, approximately 21 million people were the victims of forced labor, which accounted for $150 billion in annual profits. CBP’s commitment to the reduction in these numbers has been readily apparent. In addition to its first Forced Labor audit, on October 1, CBP cracked down on five U.S. importers by issuing “withhold release orders” covering five imported products from five countries, in essence halting all import related activities for those importers.
The social injustice of forced labor when coupled with the risk of substantial penalties and the loss of import privileges, makes a Forced Labor policy an integral part of any robust import compliance program. Companies should strive to meet the minimum requirements for vendor screening, contract obligations, and forced labor auditing. Executives at a company with sufficient Forced Labor policies can rest assured that not only is product being produced legally and in a humane manner, but that the company has control over, what in many cases, is a complex and multi-tiered supply chain.
“Forced labor issues should be a part of our global conscience, and CBP is doing a good job of enforcing an important and underreported issue,” said Jay Acayan. “This could not have happened at a better time for our country and its industry.“
Jay Acayan is a partner at Givens & Johnston and has been practicing customs law for almost 20 years. Givens & Johnston specializes in supporting importers, exporters, and customs brokers in complying with U.S. regulations that impact the movement of merchandise into or out of the United States. For information on forced labor enforcement and/or any other customs related regulations contact Jay at 713.932.1540 or via email at JA@GJATradeLaw.com