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U.S. announces new trade strategy to combat forced labor

The US says it will continue to build a stronger, more comprehensive federal anti-trafficking response and support the implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

U.S. announces new trade strategy to combat forced labor

The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking was convened today for the first time under the Biden-Harris Administration to discuss how the U.S. government will continue to build a stronger, more comprehensive federal anti-trafficking response and support the implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to prevent human trafficking globally and address the systems that make communities vulnerable to labor exploitation, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai today announced that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will develop its first-ever focused trade strategy to combat forced labor.

“Eradicating forced labor is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity. Doing so also helps protect workers from unfair competition and raises global labor standards,” Ambassador Tai said. “In order to prevent this human exploitation, and protect the 25 million individuals – including women and children – forced to work against their will in harsh conditions, we need to come together as a global community and create collective action. I am committed to working with our trade partners to create a fair, rules-based international trading system where the use of forced labor in traded goods and services, including forced child labor, becomes a thing of the past.”

The development of this strategy will include a thorough, interagency review of USTR’s existing trade policies and tools used to combat forced labor, including forced child labor, to determine areas that may need strengthening and gaps that need to be filled. USTR will use this analysis to establish objectives, priorities, new tools, and key action items to advance the Administration’s goals to combat forced labor. The agency will undertake an inclusive process that maximizes input from stakeholders, including labor organizations, civil society, survivors, and the private sector.

FACT SHEET: President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons | The White House

Ambassador Tai’s remarks from today’s meeting as prepared for delivery are below.

Good afternoon. It is great to be with all of you as we discuss our Administration’s commitment to this important issue.

At USTR, we are committed to using trade policy to support and empower workers in the United States and around the world.

That perspective and expertise is important as we advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, especially in the fight to eradicate forced labor.

We know that we can achieve more durable and lasting change if our trading partners also commit to these principles and incorporate them into their practices.

That is why the President fought to include forced labor on the agenda at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall in June of last year.

The G7 Trade Ministers’ Forced Labor Statement underscores that forced labor has no place in the global trading system. It also lays out a shared vision for tackling forced labor in global supply chains.

Eradicating forced labor is not just a moral imperative. It also helps protect U.S. workers from unfair competition and raises global labor standards.

As the United States continues to be a global leader in this effort, I am pleased to announce that USTR will develop its first-ever, trade strategy to combat forced labor.

The development of this strategy will include a thorough interagency review of our existing trade policies and tools used to combat forced labor, including forced child labor, to determine areas that may need strengthening and gaps that need to be filled.

We will use this analysis to establish objectives, priorities, new tools, and key action items to advance our goals. We will also create an inclusive process that maximizes input from stakeholders, including labor organizations, civil society, survivors, and the private sector.

Finally, we will continue to advance this work in our trade engagements around the world. This will include: 

  • Continued work through the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiations to address the prevalent use of forced labor on fishing vessels;
  • Using the Trade and Technology Council to develop concrete actions for the United States and EU to coordinate on combatting forced and child labor;
  • Monitoring and upholding our forced labor obligations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced labor; and
  • Contributing our expertise on global supply chains in the implementation of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

By working with our trade partners, including those in the Indo-Pacific, we will demonstrate that we can raise global labor standards and provide an example for the rest of the world to follow.

I look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we develop and implement this strategy.  Thank you.

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