July 30, 2021


Tackling Forced Labor in Supply Chains event, July 30, 2021

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Task Force to Eradicate Human Trafficking educates the public about human trafficking, hosts programs with stakeholders, and meets with federal government officials to advocate on behalf of the interests of Chamber members.  

As part of the task force’s activities, the U.S. Chamber hosted on July 30, 2021, Tackling Forced Labor in Supply Chains, a forum to discuss business stakeholder engagement in managing supply chain risks. Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the Employment Policy Division at the U.S. Chamber, kicked off the event to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Stefan Marculewicz, shareholder and co-chair of the Business and Human Rights Practice Group at Littler Mendelson P.C., said that Germany, Canada, and the European Union passed or are considering legislation that requires companies to identify and avert human rights risks and impose monetary penalties for a failure to comply. An approach that penalizes businesses is burdensome because of the diversity of global supply chains, and companies are at the forefront of innovation through technology such as mapping software.

Lt. Col. James Wiley (Ret.), chief operating officer at Counter Human Trafficking Compliance Solutions (CHTCS), interviewed Jaco Booyens, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Through CHTCS’ Global Risk Assessment Technology, CHTCS offers business solutions and provides products, services, and intelligence to identify, analyze, and mitigate the risks of human trafficking in supply chains.

Gabriella Rigg Herzog, vice president of corporate responsibility and labor affairs at the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), interviewed Martha Newton, deputy-director general for policy at the International Labour Organization (ILO), about the ILO’s initiatives to combat human trafficking.

Established in 1919, the ILO is the U.N.’s sole tripartite agency representing governments, employers, and workers. It consists of 187 member states. The organization’s work comprises setting labor standards, developing policies, and devising programs to promote respectable work around the globe. The ILO examines working conditions to get at the root causes of forced labor through such programs as Alliance 8.7 and the Global Business Network on Forced Labour.

Newton concluded her remarks saying, “The ILO’s international labor standards and the fundamental principles and rights at work are benchmarks for addressing forced labor in international law.”

Marculewicz led a discussion with federal government agency officials from the departments of State and Homeland Security and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on the Biden-Harris administration’s framework to combat human trafficking. The administration’s priorities include establishing a strong worker rights framework and working with U.S. allies to recognize human rights abuses.

Dr. Kari Johstone, acting director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the State Department, summarized the 2021 Trafficking inPersons Report (TIP) and the Updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory issued by the U.S. departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security.

The TIP Report assesses government efforts to combat trafficking in 188 countries and territories by examining efforts to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent crime. It identified concerns over forced labor in the fishing sector in 55 countries and the mining sector in 36 countries.   

The Updated Xinjiang Business Advisory encourages businesses to conduct human rights due diligence in the agricultural, cotton, and solar supply sectors, among others. Johnstone said that businesses may face economic, legal, and reputational risk if they do business in Xinjiang province, and firms located in Xinjiang or source from that region are at heightened risk of acting in violation of U.S. law.

Josh Kagan, acting assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor, said that the USTR is committed to working with trade partners to promote a fair, rules-based international trading system. He discussed the USMCA’s labor chapter and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) fisheries subsidies negotiations. The USTR submitted a proposal to the WTO regarding the use of forced labor on fishing vessels.

On June 29, 2021, the USTR and the Department of Labor, along with our Mexican and Canadian counterparts, convened the inaugural meeting of the USMCA’s Labor Council. At this intergovernmental meeting, officials engaged in a conversation about compliance with the UMSCA’s requirement that each party prohibit the importation of goods into its territory from other sources produced in whole or in part by compulsory labor.

Eric Choy, acting deputy assistant secretary for trade at DHS, told the audience that since the release of DHS’ Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the agency opened the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, which integrates 16 different components. Further, U.S. and Customs Border Protection issued additional Withhold Release Orders, and the Blue Campaign worked to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize human trafficking indicators and how to respond appropriately to possible cases.

Michael Billet, senior manager of policy research at the U.S. Chamber, concluded the forum saying that the organization is leading industry-wide efforts to raise awareness to fight this heinous crime. The Chamber produced toolkits with A21 and Truckers Against Trafficking on business engagement strategies regarding how companies can stop forced labor in their supply chains and prevent sex trafficking.