U.S. bans imports from Chinese fishing fleet over forced labor allegations


US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies at a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on unaccompanied minors arriving at the US-Mexico border at the Dirksen Senate office building on the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, United States on May 13, 2021. Graeme Jennings / Pool via REUTERS

U.S. Customs and border protection on Friday imposed a new ban on imports of seafood from a Chinese fishing fleet which the agency says uses forced labor on its 32 vessels, including abuses against de many Indonesian workers.

CBP said it would immediately stop tuna, swordfish and other products from Dalian Ocean Fishing Co Ltd at US ports of entry. The “non-authorization order” prohibiting imports also applies to other end-use products containing the company’s seafood, such as canned tuna and pet food, said a CBP official.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the action marked the first time that CBP had banned imports of an entire fishing fleet, as opposed to individual vessels targeted in the past.

“DHS will continue to aggressively investigate the use of forced labor by fishing vessels in distant waters and a wide range of other industries,” Mayorkas said at a press briefing. “American producers and importers need to understand that there will be consequences for entities that attempt to exploit workers to sell goods in the United States.”

CBP officials said the agency’s investigation found that many Indonesian workers hired on Dalian Ocean Fishing vessels found conditions very different from what they expected and were subjected to violence. physical, wage deductions, debt bondage, and abusive working and living conditions.

Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai called attention to the issue of forced labor on fishing boats, submitting a new proposal to the World Trade Organization to reduce subsidies for illegal fishing and demand that member countries recognize the problem.

U.S. imports of Dalian Ocean Fishing are low, totaling $ 2.9 million between January 1, 2019 and April 30, 2021, according to CBP data.

But the issue of forced labor is a growing flashpoint in strained relations between the United States and China, following numerous recent import bans linked to China’s detention of Uyghur Muslims in the region. far west of Xinjiang. The move comes less than two days after Tai had a first conversation with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Read more

The Trump administration, during its last week in office in January, announced a sweeping import ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over claims they were produced with labor. forced Uyghur – a far-reaching measure that would require the garment and textile industries to reorganize their supply chains. Read more

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