February 26, 2016


New US law bans imports of slave-produced seafood


The US will ban fish and seafood imports from slave labour without exception starting early next month.


President Barrack Obama signed into law Thursday, Feb. 25, a bill deleting the "consumptive demand" exception in the Tariff Act of 1930 that allows forced-labor goods into the country if there is not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand.


The bill, both approved in the Senate and House of Representatives, resulted from Associated Press (AP) reports last year exposing Thai companies exporting seafood to the US that was caught and processed by enslaved workers. The reports resulted in more than 2,000 trapped fishermen being rescued, over a dozen alleged traffickers arrested and millions of dollars' worth of seafood and vessels seized, according to the AP.


The AP identified the "consumptive demand" exception as the legal loophole allowing the continued imports of slave-caught and -processed seafood. Obama promised to repeal the exception clause and vowed "swift, strong and effective enforcement" of the law, which takes effect 15 days after Obama signed it on Wednesday, Feb. 24.


"This law slams shut an unconscionable and archaic loophole that forced America to accept products made by children or slave labor," said Sen. Ron Wyden, who worked on the legislation.


The Department of Labor has listed over 350 goods produced by child labor or forced labor and this includes fish and shrimp from Thailand.


The new law, called the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, is expected to have a ripple effect on supply chains worldwide, according to David Abramowitz, vice president of Humanity United.


Reacting to the signing of the new law, the Thai Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it would not affect Thai exports.


"The law applies to products from all countries entering the US. It also covers several dimensions of trade and does not directly target the fishing industry, or any particular industry in Thailand for that matter," said Sek Wannamethee, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, as quoted by the Bangkok Post.

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