Large companies lobbying to hide import data that could link them to SLAVERY and CHILD LABOR
By Mary Villareal // Oct 26, 2022

A coalition of major companies from the United States, including Walmart and General Motors, are quietly lobbying the government to make certain import data confidential.

This could make it much more difficult for journalists and human rights activists to link imported goods to abusive labor practices abroad, including forced labor in the Xinjiang province of China and child labor in Africa.

Martina Vandenberg, a human rights lawyer and president of the Washington-based Human Trafficking Legal Center, called the closed-door proposals "outrageous."

"Every year we continue to import and sell millions of dollars in goods tainted by forced labor. Corporate America should be ashamed that their answer to this abuse is to end transparency. It's time they get on the right side of history," she said.

The corporate executives who make up the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposed "modernizing" import and export procedures in a variety of ways, one of which would make data collection from vessel manifests confidential.

This would also frustrate current practices of journalists who use shipping manifests to determine where goods manufactured or harvested with abusive labor practices were sent, which is a key tactic in pressuring U.S. companies to stop allowing forced labor into their supply chains.

Adopting the proposal would shroud in secrecy customs data on ocean-going freight responsible for about half of the $2.7 trillion in goods that enter the U.S. every year. Rail, truck and air cargo are already shielded from public disclosure as per U.S. trade law.

Corporate public relations departments have assured American consumers that they wish to cleanse their supply chains of forced labor and child labor. They claim that making customs data confidential would protect American businesses from data theft.

However, the advisory committee also proposed rules that would require the CBP to give advance notice to importers who they suspect have purchased goods produced through abusive labor practices.

This seemingly reasonable request could potentially imperil whistleblowers, as abusive suppliers could be tipped off about complaints and investigations.

Labor activists say that tracking down and prosecuting abuse has been extremely difficult, with some seemingly clear-cut, high-profile lawsuits dismissed by judges because the evidence was not airtight enough. On the other hand, importers complain that the lawsuits can get very expensive and can take years to resolve.

The Department of Labor announced new initiatives to crack down on forced and child labor in September, including new reports identifying some of the most problematic regions around the world.

CBP: Proposals developed with input from public meetings

The CBP said it would not comment on ideas that have not been formally submitted by its advisory committee, but said the group's proposals are developed with input from public meetings.

One of its stated goals in creating what is dubbed a "21st Century Customs Framework" is to boost visibility in global supply chains, support ethical sourcing practices and level the playing field for domestic U.S. manufacturers. (Related: Popular "woke" and "socially conscious" brands benefiting from Uyghur slave labor - report.)

But according to the International Labor Organization, the move to make manifests confidential seems to be directly contrary to the CBP's commitment, especially considering that reports by media have documented how large quantities of clothing, electronics and seafood make their way onto U.S. shelves every year as a result of illegal forced labor that engages 28 million people globally.

Much of the investigative work by media publications begins with studying shipping manifests – whether it is clothing made by Uyghurs at internment camps in the Xinjiang region of China, cocoa harvested by children in the Ivory Coast or seafood caught by fishermen from the Philippines toiling in slave-like conditions.

"Curtailing access to this information will make it harder for the public to monitor a shipping industry that already functions largely in the shadows," said University of British Columbia professor Peter Klein, who runs the Hidden Costs of Global Supply Chains project, an international collaboration between researchers and journalists.

"If anything, CBP should be prioritizing more transparency, opening up records of shipments by air, road and rail as well."

Visit for more information about unfair labor practices employed to get products to the United States.

Watch the video below that talks about the U.S. legalizing child labor to deal with labor shortage.

This video is from the Suzie Etc- Search for Truth channel on

More related stories:

Slave labor in Asia produces the shrimp found in Western supermarkets.

Five German companies sued for allegedly benefiting from Uighur slave labor.

There's blood on your phone: Tech giants linked to "slave labor" in Chinese factories.

Sources include:

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