Published On: Mon, Feb 13th, 2023

Possible Forced Labor Enforcement Remedies on Aluminum Products

Recent reports indicate that aluminum is now being targeted for actions against forced labor under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (“UFLPA”). Though U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) has yet to officially announce aluminum as a targeted product under UFLPA, reports indicate that enforcement efforts against aluminum began as early as December 2022 – January 2023. UFLPA establishes a rebuttable presumption that all goods made in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (“XUAR”) or having ties to the region, are presumed to be made with forced labor. The Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (“FLETF”) published a list of high-priority sectors and products which initially included cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon. For reasons stated below, aluminum now appears to be a high risk product on CBP’s radar as well.

Indications of forced labor in aluminum manufacturing began surfacing when reports, such as that by Horizon Advisory, pointed to forced labor indicators within the Xinjiang aluminum industry. Another report by human rights advocates in the United Kingdom identified forced labor in aluminum manufacturing as well, particularly within the automotive industry. Though the studies are by non-governmental organizations (NGOs)  CBP often relies on such data to gain insight into various industries.

The shipping firm, AP Moller-Maersk confirmed aluminum is being investigated for UFLPA violations, posting this statement to their website last week:

“In a recent development, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun issuing detention notices against aluminum products under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). CBP has recently initiated enforcement efforts against aluminum products and will most likely focus on aluminum automotive commodities and other commodities classified in Chapter 76 (Aluminum and articles thereof).”

  The ultimate impact of these actions is unclear at this time.  Because of the lack of any de minimis standards in the UFLPA statute, such actions could have widespread implications.  However, it is not clear how broadly CBP will apply any actions.   Plainly, any actions that could affect a major part of the U.S. economy will be highly contentions and highly political.  Thus, the developments in this case bear careful observation.   

Importers should take steps to identify any implications that actions against aluminum could have on their supply chains. As noted, there is no de minimis threshold under UFLPA, so goods containing smaller amounts of aluminum could also be subject to enforcement. Each importer will need take appropriate actions depending on the facts  regarding its imports.    Companies may consider whether they can prepare certain records such as certificates of origin and production and purchasing documentation in the case of an inquiry. Depending on the extent of exposure, importers also may consider performing deeper analyses of their supply chains. For questions on how to do so, please reach out to the Husch Blackwell International Trade and Supply Chain team

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