EU: Proposal on prohibiting products made with forced labour
On 14 September 2022, the EU Commission proposed a regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the EU market, regardless of where they are made. EU Member States are to designate authorities competent to remove products produced in forced labour from the market following investigations.
In July 2021, the EU Commission and the European External Action Service had already published a guidance to help undertakings in the EU to take appropriate measures to address the risk of forced labour in their business operations and supply chains, building a bridge to legislation on mandatory horizontal due diligence. In its proposal for a Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence of February 2022, the EU Commission already proposed due diligence requirements for major undertakings to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for actual and potential negative impacts on human rights – including labour rights and the environment – along global supply chains.
The regulation now proposed is intended to create a third layer in the fight against forced labour. This proposal provides that, based on a risk-based approach, national authorities would have to start investigations in case of well-founded suspicions. At the EU’s external borders, customs authorities would carry out checks and stop products. According to the press release, the EU Commission also intends to publish guidelines that shall help in fulfilling due diligence obligations in connection with forced labour and information on risk indicators for forced labour within 18 months of the regulation coming into force. Furthermore, a new EU Forced Labour Product Network shall be created, which would facilitate structural coordination and cooperation between competent authorities.
The proposal must now be discussed and approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it can enter into force.
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