Discussions on Forced Labour Pick Up Steam as EU Steps Up Dialogue

22-06-2022

 

Over the last couple of years governmental legislative actions addressing forced labour have seen a marked rise. Amongst the key actions has been the European Commission’s announcement by President von der Leyen in her State of the Union address of September 2021: it intends to keep the EU market free from products made, extracted or harvested with forced labour, whether they are made in the EU or elsewhere in the world.

Shortly before that announcement, amfori had held discussions with the Commission that contributed to the Commission's Guidelines on Forced Labour. More recently, the Commission has released a call for evidence from stakeholders between 23rd May and 21 June on the forthcoming EU legislation to which amfori has contributed comments on the design and development of the legislative act.   

On 21 June 2022, a virtual roundtable on forced labour in global supply chains, co-organised by amfori and RBA (Responsible Business Alliance), involved a select number of members from amfori and RBA and high-level Commission officials. The goal of the session was to gather industry views on tackling forced labour in global value chains including trends, challenges and lessons learnt.

Amongst the issues raised by businesses in the discussion, were:

  • The need for a level playing field with the legislation being applicable to all kinds of businesses
  • To have a harmonised approach to the similar initiatives by various Member States
  • The important role of governments in monitoring and enforcing legislation
  • The need for the EU to engage with other global actors like the US
  • The need for transparency and harmonised data from complex supply chains
  • That the eventual proposal needs to work alongside the CSDDD
  • That forced labour can be hidden deep within the supply chain (beyond Tier 1) and therefore difficult to find – especially for SMEs

In response the EC agreed to take account of these interventions but also to continue engagement with amfori and RBA to gather further questions from businesses on concerns about the future legislation. amfori and RBA also affirmed their intent to collaborate in gathering further questions from business for further opportunities of engagement.

amfori also organised an informal meeting with the Commission to allow staff (including country representatives) to engage with the Commission on 21 June 2022. Here discussions, amongst others, addressed the question on how business representatives and stakeholders from the third country representatives would be engaged in the dialogue on the legislation, what measures the Commission could put in place to support the implementation of the legislation, and how the legislation could potentially impact competitiveness. The Commission asked amfori how it informs members on the different steps they need to take in putting due diligence practices into place. 

In closure, amfori agreed with the Commission to continue the dialogue, noting the further opportunities to contribute to the discussion in the coming weeks.

It was noted by participants that these discussions took place on the day that the US Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act came into force. The UFLPA addresses concerns about using forced labour in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of Western China. Starting from 21 June 2022, products imported directly from Xinjiang, or which have inputs suspected from the region, will be assumed to have been made with forced labour and will therefore be prohibited.

Links to amfori articles on forced labour