Europe proposes to veto products from forced labor

EFE.- The European Commission (EC) proposed this midday Prohibit all products produced or harvested by forced labor from the European Union (EU) market, both those produced on EU territory for national consumption and export, and those imported.

The Community proposal, which does not target specific companies or industries, wants to make a difference against “modern slavery”Commission Executive Vice-President and Head of Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.

According to EC data, 27.6 million people perform forced labor worldwide, mostly in the private economy but also imposed by the state.

“Our goal is to remove all products made by forced labor from the EU market, regardless of where they were made,” Dombrovskis said.

Under the proposal, national authorities will be empowered to remove products produced by forced labor from the EU market after conducting an investigation.

Based on different sources of information, they must identify the risks of forced labor in certain products or geographical areas, as well as the steps that companies must take to avoid this phenomenon.

In this process, national authorities will open investigations into suspicious products and may request information from companies and carry out checks and inspections, including in countries outside the EU.

If the national authorities discover the existence of forced labour, they will order the withdrawal of the products already marketed and will prohibit their marketing and their export, specified the Commission.

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Europe proposes to veto all products made from forced labor

In addition, businesses will be required to dispose of products and member state customs authorities will be responsible for enforcing the rules at EU borders.

In case the national authorities fail to gather all the necessary evidence due to lack of cooperation from a company or an authority of a non-EU Member State, they can take a decision according to the available facts.

Brussels proposes that the competent authorities assess the risks and apply proportionality throughout the process, so as for example to take into account the situation of SMEs.

Small and medium-sized enterprises will not be exempted from the regulation, but will benefit from a specific design of it, in such a way that the size and resources of the economic operators concerned, as well as the extent of the work risk, will be taken into account before opening a formal investigation.

Community sources explained that the regulation seeks a “balance” between what authorities and businesses can do.

Like they said, of the billions of products imported into the EU, “only a small fraction will actually be contaminated by, say, forced labour”they therefore also have international cooperation with third countries to effectively detect cases, they stressed.

The Commission plans to publish guidelines within 18 months of the entry into force of this regulation with guidance on business due diligence on forced labor and information on risk indicators.

In addition, a new network of forced labor products will be promoted which will serve as a platform for coordination and cooperation on this phenomenon between the competent authorities and the Commission.

Then, the proposal must be debated and approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the Union to enter into force and, from that moment, it must be applied within the following 24 months.

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