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S&Ds ready to start the negotiations on their flagship project: forced labour ban


16 Oct 2023


Global Europe
Tonight, the European Parliament’s committees on international trade (INTA) and internal market and consumer protection (IMCO) will jointly vote on the European Parliament mandate to start the negotiations with the Council on the new law to ban products made with forced labour from the EU market. This is a long-awaited key demand and policy proposal for the S&Ds in this legislature. We are pushing to ensure it is concluded before the end of the EP mandate.
It is estimated that in 2021, 28 million people worldwide were in forced labour – 3 million more than in 2016. With a new law, the European Union will finally have an efficient instrument to help eradicate forced labour.
The compromise – agreed with other political groups – and which will be put to the vote tonight at 7:30pm, strongly reflects our progressive objectives. The S&D negotiators ensured that the new law be product-based, meaning that all companies will have to comply with the ban if forced labour is detected at some step in their supply chain. For products coming from regions or sectors where state-imposed forced labour takes place, companies will have to prove that products are not tainted. If the competent authorities find that forced labour has been used, the products will be withdrawn from the market, and customs authorities will block imports and exports.
Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, S&D MEP and European Parliament rapporteur for the forced labour ban in the IMCO committee, said:
"Tonight, we will take an important step to finally ban products made using forced labour, a form of modern slavery. It has long been a demand of our Group, and we won’t stop working until it is implemented. I am looking forward to seeing a large majority supporting our strong text, with important changes to the good Commission proposal.
"The negotiations were difficult, but we built an agreement with key elements for the Socialists and Democrats. First, and starting with an absolute priority for our Group, the new law will include remediation for workers involved in the production of products using forced labour. Such remediation must be a condition for withdrawing a decision to ban a product – if there’s no compensation for the workers, products cannot circulate in our single market.
"We are also reinforcing the European Commission’s role in the implementation of this new instrument. It is crucial that the Commission has the same powers as the national authorities to investigate cases of forced labour, as it will help with the effectiveness and the harmonisation of rules.
"Finally, we are making it easier to prove some of the worst cases of forced labour, by reversing the burden of proof for products coming from specific economic sectors in specific geographic areas where there is proof of forced labour imposed by state authorities."
Raphaël Glucksmann, S&D MEP and negotiator on this file in the INTA committee, said:
"After years of civic mobilisation and political battles, the European Parliament will now enter into negotiations with the Council to empower the EU to block products made with forced labour. In our European stores, there must be no room for products stained by Uyghur forced labour!
"This is obviously not over, but as Socialists and Democrats, we can be proud. The fact that we got this legislative proposal on the table is a big victory for our Group. We urge the member states to finalise the legislative work with us before the end of the current EP mandate.
"It was clear from the beginning that the conservatives would try to water down this initiative, claiming that it would bring extra costs for European businesses. Nothing could be more false. This law is not company, but product based, and should be welcomed by all companies that suffer from unfair competition."


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