The EU bans the entry of products manufactured through labor abuses

Towards the end of the legislature, the European Union is preparing to approve a pioneering law in the field of human rights to eliminate the presence in the Community market of products made through forced labour.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 17:10
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The EU bans the entry of products manufactured through labor abuses

Towards the end of the legislature, the European Union is preparing to approve a pioneering law in the field of human rights to eliminate the presence in the Community market of products made through forced labour. With an eye on China, the new legal framework will affect all economic sectors and the entire production process, including supply chains. Regardless of whether it has been produced in the EU or whether it has been imported, if it is proven that a product has been manufactured from forced labor it will have to be banned and removed from the single market.

The European Commission will publish guidelines intended to help economic agents and competent authorities to comply with the requirements of the new regulation, recommendations that can be consulted on a single portal where prohibitions will be reported and a database of areas will be published and risk sectors. This window will also be enabled to receive reports of irregularities.

Where the alleged forced labor takes place outside the EU, the European Commission will take the lead in investigations and determine whether the regulation has been breached based on criteria such as the scale and severity of the alleged forced labour, the amount or volume of the products traded, the proportion of parts of the product in question made through these abuses in the finished product and also the proximity of the economic agents to the risks.

If the European authorities conclude that forced labor has been used to produce an item, they can ban it and order its withdrawal from the entire single market (in the case of a car component, for example, it would be enough to replace it). Producers can be fined, but once they demonstrate that they have eliminated these practices from their operations or supply chains they will be able to sell their goods again in the European Union.

Brussels will begin its preparations for the entry into force of the regulation by drawing up a list of specific economic sectors in specific geographic areas where there is forced labor imposed by the State, and also a list of products of risk for which additional information will be requested to access the European market. The European regulations are based on the International Labor Organization's definition of forced labor and will apply to situations where people work under techniques of violence or intimidation, or through more subtle means such as manipulated debt, the withholding of identity documents or threats of reporting to immigration authorities.

"It is appalling that in the 21st century slavery and forced labor still exist in the world. This heinous crime must be eradicated and the first step to achieve this is to break the business model of companies that exploit workers," said Belgium's Minister of Economy and Employment, Pierre-Yves Dermagne, the country of which he holds the rotating presidency of the Council, after the provisional agreement agreed by its negotiators, on behalf of the Twenty-seven, with the European Parliament at the beginning of March.

The text must now be formally ratified by the two institutions, traditionally a simple procedure which, however, has recently offered surprises, as some countries, at the last minute, have withdrawn from the agreed agreements.

In this case, no setbacks are expected, but, as of now, in Brussels no one puts their hand to the fire until both the governments of the Twenty-seven and the Eurochamber put the final stamp on the political agreements.