Uyghur Forced Labour-Made Goods Are Losing Market Access, after EU Vote

The EU is one step closer to prohibiting goods made with forced labour from the world’s largest single market, as the Forced Labour Regulation progresses

March 19, 2024

The vote to approve the European Union’s (EU) Forced Labour Regulation by country ambassadors in the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (COREPER) sends a clear message to companies: forced labour in supply chains will no longer be tolerated. With the final steps of the process to be completed in the coming weeks, this milestone should signal to every company that it must immediately exit the Uyghur Region or risk losing access to the EU market.

“We commend the European Council for approving the Forced Labour Regulation. Companies need to take notice — goods tainted by the forced labour of the Uyghur people are increasingly losing market access. All companies, across all industries, must swiftly cut ties with the Region, where the government of China is carrying out crimes against humanity,” said Omer Kanat, Executive Director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

While the proposed regulation represents an important step forward in the fight against forced labour in global supply chains, it does not yet sufficiently address state-imposed forced labour as it does not establish a rebuttable presumption of forced labour on specific regions, as called for by civil society. The regulation establishes a review period two years after implementation, and we encourage policymakers to strengthen the regulation and include the provisions proposed by advocates to meaningfully address state-imposed forced labour.

“Although both laws have been severely weakened in potential impact due to Member States’ interests, the passage of the Forced Labour Regulation, together with the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, nonetheless affirms the EU as a leader in the fight against forced labour in supply chains. We hope to see the Parliament swiftly pass both laws, so that we can look towards enforcement.” Chloe Cranston, Head of Thematic Advocacy at Anti-Slavery International.

The legal risk to companies that are still profiting from state-imposed forced labour continues to  grow. Failure to address links to Uyghur forced labour in compliance with the US Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and soon the EU Forced Labour Regulation, increases the risks of loss of access to the world’s two largest markets outside of China and the ultimate destruction of goods tainted with forced labour by the EU. To avoid being sanctioned, companies must urgently trace their entire supply chains, address any points of exposure to Uyghur forced labour at every tier of their supply chain, and fully exit the Uyghur Region including by terminating any direct or indirect relationships in the Region.

A wider global response is needed so there is no market for goods made with Uyghur forced labour anywhere in the world. Governments around the world should rapidly adopt and robustly enforce import control legislation banning imports of goods made with forced labour. Forced labour import prohibitions should be paired with the adoption and implementation of mandatory human rights due diligence legislation.


Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash