Recommendations for an Effective EU Forced Labour Regulation to Ensure Companies Do Not Benefit from State-Imposed Forced Labour

November, 2023

This briefing, co-authored with Anti-Slavery International and the Cotton Campaign, outlines the presence of state-imposed forced labour in the Uyghur Region and Turkmenistan, as emblematic cases of state-imposed forced labour, and provides recommendations to strengthen the proposal for the European Union (EU) Forced Labour Regulation to ensure it effectively bans the import and sale of products made with state-imposed forced labour in the EU.

See the full briefing here and the key recommendations below.

Recommendations for the EU Forced Labour Regulation

In order for the Forced Labour Regulation to meaningfully address state-imposed forced labour, it must:

1. Include a rebuttable presumption of forced labour on specific product groups (e.g., all cotton, all polysilicon, or all tomatoes) from specified countries or regions (specifically the Uyghur Region and Turkmenistan) that would lead to a presumptive ban of imports and sales of these specific product groups on the EU market. In cases where the rebuttable presumption applies, the economic operators then bear the burden of establishing that state-imposed forced labour has not been used at any stage of extraction, harvest, production, or manufacturing of a product, including working or processing related to the product.

2. Lower the evidentiary threshold to initiate all investigations and to take a decision. We recommend not to create any evidence threshold to initiate the full investigation (art. 5) beyond an assessment of the validity of the claim and to trigger an additional type of decision:

a. a decision to block entry into the EU market/forbid the placing on the market/export of goods made with forced labour in the EU when a “reasonable but not conclusive” standard that the goods were made with forced labour is found; in the case of state-imposed forced labour, the burden of proof would then shift to the economic operator; and

b. a final decision, which then allows authorities to seize the goods, as currently foreseen in the European Commission proposal, when a company cannot disprove the presence of state-imposed forced labour in its supply chain or when conclusive evidence is established in cases of forced labour in private supply chains.

These changes would facilitate the implementation of the legislation, increase its impact, and align it with other countries’ standards, for the sake of both companies and authorities. In addition, this would ensure that all products subject to a rebuttable presumption of state-imposed forced labour would not be allowed to enter the EU market, thus protecting the EU consumers.

3. Designate the European Commission also as a competent authority, to conduct politically sensitive investigations, such as those linked to state-imposed forced labour, or to contribute to the investigation process, in particular when investigations in third countries are required.


Photo by ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND on Unsplash