Preventing the Importation of Goods Made with Forced Labor

Section 307 of the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the importation of goods made by forced labor.  In the original law, there was a loophole that allowed for the importation of such goods as long as the United States did not produce the good in sufficient quantity to meet demand.  As a result, it was very difficult to ban the importation of goods under the law.  In 2016, the loophole, commonly referred to as the consumptive demand loophole, was eliminated, and in September 2019 Customs and Border Patrol announced that they were issuing five withhold release orders.

With this increased activity came an increased interest in learning about how to effectively use this tool to prevent goods made with forced labor from entering the United States.  Below is information on filing a complaint, a compendium of complaints filed by civil society organizations, and information on withhold release orders and finding.  You may also wish to review Human Trafficking Legal Center’s guide, Importing Freedom: Using the U.S. Tariff Act to Combat Forced Labor in Supply Chains, which provides the nuts and bolts for filing a petition.


To help the public understand the process from receiving a complaint to stopping goods at the border, Customs and Border Patrol developed a graphic detailing the steps.

19 C.F.R § 12.42 lays out the requirements for submitting a complaint.  It allows CBP to self-initiate an investigation or they can investigate after receiving communication from anyone who has reason to believe that goods that are likely to be imported are made with forced labor.  The public can submit a complaint using the e-allegation system.  A complaint from the public must include: 

(1) A full statement of the reasons for the belief;

(2) A detailed description or sample of the merchandise; and

(3) All pertinent facts obtainable as to the production of the merchandise abroad.


Below are submissions made by civil society organizations along with information on whether a withhold release order was issued.

  • Malaysia’s palm oil industry
  • Grant & Eisenhofer ESG Institute submitted a petition in June 2019
  • International Labor Rights Forum, Rainforest Action Network, and Sum of Us submitted a petition in August 2019
  • Liberty Share submitted a petition in April 2020, a summary of the petition is available here.
  • CBP issued a withhold release order against palm oil and palm oil products made by FGV Holdings Berhad and its subsidiaries and joint ventures effective September 30, 2020.
  • In December 2020, CBP issued a withhold release order against products containing palm oil produced by Sime Darby Plantation Berhad and its subsidiaries, joint ventures, and affiliated entities in Malaysia.
  • Cotton in Turkmenistan
  • International Labor Rights Forum filed a petition in April 2016
  • CBP issued a withhold release order (WRO) on May 18, 2018 and it remains in effect.
  • Cotton in Uzbekistan
  • International Labor Rights Forum filed a petition in May 2013
  • CBP has not issued a withhold release order yet.
  • Cocoa produced in Cote D’Ivoire
  • International Rights Advocates, Corporate Accountability Lab, and UC Irvine School of Law Civil Rights Litigation Clinic submitted a petition in February 2020
  • CBP has not issued a withhold release order yet.
  • Goods made with cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China
  • Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility on behalf of ten additional organizations submitted a petition in August 2020.
  • CBP issued five withhold release orders for goods produced in the Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region in September 2020, and a detention order against cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) in November 2020.
  • In January 2021, CBP issued a region wide withhold release order on cotton products and tomato products produced in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Withhold Release Orders and Findings

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) developed a fact sheet to explain withhold release orders and findings.

CBP publishes all withhold release orders (WRO) and findings on this page.  Each entry includes the country, type of merchandise, the manufacturer, and the current status of the WRO.  Most WROs are for a good made from a particular manufacturer, however, some ban important of the merchandise produced anywhere in the country.  For example, cotton produced anywhere in Turkmenistan is banned.

Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA)

The most important recent legislative development regarding the prevention of importation of goods made with forced labor is the The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was signed into law by President Biden on December 23, 2021 and came into force on June 21, 2022. The Act makes it U.S. policy to assume that any “goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part” manufactured in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region are made with forced labor and requires firms to disclose all dealings with Xinjiang. This assumption applies unless the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determines that the “importer of record has complied with specified conditions and, by clear and convincing evidence, that the goods, wares, articles, or merchandise were not produced using forced labor.” It also calls upon the President of the United States to impose sanctions on any foreign person who “knowingly” engages in forced labor using the Uyghur minority. 

Importers and suppliers should anticipate that the range of products CBP detains will continue to expand. CBP also has a quarterly-updated dashboard detailing shipments subjected to UFLPA reviews or enforcement actions.

You can read DHS’s comprehensive strategy to enforce the UFLPA here.

[This page was last updated: June 2023]


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