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EU to ban products made with forced labour - a progressive tool against modern slavery

Date

22 Apr 2024

Sections

InfoSociety

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will put the final seal on the first EU law to ban products made with forced labour from reaching the EU market, regardless if they were made in the EU or any third country. Shirts, shoes or cars, made by enslaved Uyghurs, Turkmens, or forced workers anywhere, should not be sold in our shops or online anymore.

For the S&Ds, it is a huge victory, as it was our group who initiated this fight to create a robust instrument to help eradicate modern slavery.

Under the new rules, the Commission will be responsible for carrying out investigations into cases of forced labour outside the EU, while member states will carry out investigations within the EU. If the investigation concludes that forced labour has been used, goods will have to be withdrawn from the EU market and online marketplaces, and then donated, recycled or destroyed. The Commission will establish a database with a list of specific economic sectors in specific geographic areas where state-imposed forced labour takes place. 

Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, European Parliament co-rapporteur of the forced labour ban in the committee on the internal market and consumer protection (IMCO), said: 

“This new law is one of the biggest achievements of this legislature, and a victory for our political family. The EU is putting workers and human rights at the heart of our international trade and internal market. It is simply unacceptable for our Union, which should be a global champion in promoting values, to continue importing and selling in our shops products that were made with blood and tears at some step along their supply chain.

“This new law is also good news for all the companies that suffer from unfair competition from companies that use forced labour.

However, now we must make sure that it this new anti-forced labour tool is properly implemented. The European Commission needs sufficient resources to carry out new tasks, including inspections in third countries.  We will also have to closely cooperate with international partners, like the US and Canada, to prevent operators who are blocked by one country from selling their forced labour products somewhere else.”

Raphaël Glucksmann, S&D MEP and shadow rapporteur on this file in the committee on international trade (INTA), said:

“After years of civic mobilisation and political battles, we finally have a first-ever European law to block products made with forced labour. European citizens will be able to dress, move around, or use their smartphones, without fear of being complicit in crimes against humanity.

“Today we also prove that the European Parliament has immense powers in matters of foreign affairs. Provided we use the right leverage, starting with trade or the internal market, we can use the power of the European market to the fight against slavery in the world. 28 million people worldwide are forced into labour and it is high time to start seriously fighting against this business of human misery.”

Note to editors:

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2021, almost 28 million people worldwide were in forced labour – 3 million more than in 2016. ILO estimates that forced labour generates €217 billion per year of illegal profits – a dramatic increase of 37% since 2014.

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