U.S. Customs and Border Protection has modified the Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd. garment imports. Effective immediately, provided the imports are otherwise in compliance with U.S. law, Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd. shipments will be allowed to enter U.S. commerce. Shipments that have previously been detained will also be released.
This modification takes place a month after CBP issued the WRO on July 29, 2022, representing swift and successful collaboration between civil society and worker rights organizations, Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd. and its parent company Eastman Exports, and CBP. This collaboration plays a critical role in ensuring that imports entering the United States are free of forced labor and meet the humane and ethical standards required by U.S. customs and trade laws. It improves American economic security while upholding human rights for workers.
CBP lifted the WRO after a non-governmental organization, Eastman Exports, and Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd. provided evidence to CBP that Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd., located in India, had addressed all five of the International Labour Organization’s indicators of forced labor identified by the WRO.
“Every day, our Department leads the fight to root out forced labor from American supply chains,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Combatting these inhumane practices is a moral and economic imperative, and a challenge we must confront with a whole-of-society approach. This modification not only reflects the critical role of CBP, but it is also a testament to the important advancements made by trade unions, worker rights organizations, and workers themselves who are bravely organizing to improve their working conditions.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP are committed to combatting forced labor and protecting the rights of workers around the globe and are proud to be leading efforts on that front.
“Forced labor directly threatens America’s economic security, and therefore national security. This modification recognizes that workers at Natchi Apparel (P) Ltd. are now treated with the dignity and humanity they, and workers around the world, deserve, which means greater security for American businesses and consumers,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.
The International Labour Organization estimates that 25 million workers suffer under conditions of forced labor worldwide. Bad actors use forced labor to sell goods below market value, which hurts law-abiding businesses, threatens American jobs, and exposes consumers to making unethical purchases. Civil society organizations and U.S. importers are critical to combatting forced labor use in U.S. supply chains, in partnership with CBP.
“Our efforts reinforce the dynamic work of non-governmental organizations on the ground to protect workers suffering under conditions of forced labor and of importers to source products ethically from suppliers who treat workers fairly and with dignity. Together, these provide a strong incentive to remediate forced labor conditions. This modification should serve as an example to others looking to do business with the United States,” said AnnMarie R. Highsmith, Executive Assistant Commissioner for the CBP Office of Trade.
Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise produced wholly or in part by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments must export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.
CBP has established a process through which interested parties may request the modification or revocation of a WRO or Finding. The required evidence and timeline for modification or revocation will vary depending upon the specific circumstances of each individual case. CBP will not modify a WRO or Finding until the agency has evidence demonstrating that the subject merchandise is no longer produced, manufactured, or mined using forced labor.
Any person or organization that has reason to believe merchandise produced with the use of forced labor is being, or likely to be, imported into the United States can report detailed allegations through CBP’s e-Allegations Online Trade Violations Reporting System or by calling 1-800-BE-ALERT.