On November 22, 2017, Apple, Inc. released a statement confirming reports that its major supplier in China, Foxconn Technology Group has used illegal student labor to assemble the latest version of the iPhone. Apple indicated that the company and Foxconn are taking corrective action in response. In the past, both Apple and Foxconn have been accused of employing forced labor practices. This time, the discoveries coincide with a time of renewed focus on enforcement of the decades-old U.S. ban on imports of forced labor, carrying consequences for importers in terms of penalties, and withholding and/or seizure of merchandise. As reviewed below, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has recently taken measures to enforce the import ban and sanctions for forced North Korean labor (described below), and issued guidance to importers in this regard.
On November 7, 2017, U.S. CBP issued a press release reminding “importers of their obligation to exercise reasonable care and take all necessary and appropriate steps” to comply with the forced labor import ban and the sanctions for forced labor and slavery overseas of North Koreans under the Countering Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). In addition, CBP stated that it is “committed to preventing the importation of merchandise produced with forced labor or the labor of North Korean nationals or citizens anywhere in the world.” CBP is authorized to take a variety of actions toward that end, and has recently taken steps to enforce the ban.
Below, we discuss the forced labor import ban, the North Korea related sanctions, recent enforcement-related actions, and guidance issued by CBP to assist importers with exercising reasonable care to comply with the forced labor import ban. Continue reading →