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The U.S. government is committed to supporting the voluntary efforts of businesses to advance human rights and protecting against human rights abuses, including those committed by business enterprises.  The U.S. government has continued to take steps towards this objective in 2019. This document is meant to provide an illustrative snapshot of the work undertaken in this regard over the past year.

Laws and Policies

  • Newly Signed US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) strengthens protection of labor rights.  The USMCA, which was signed earlier this year, would bring compliance with labor standards into the core of the text governing the trade relationship among the three countries. It contributed to Mexico’s enacting historic labor law reform to provide for the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.  The USMCA also would require the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to prohibit the importation of goods made by forced labor, including forced child labor.
  • S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issues five Withhold Release Orders (WROs ) for goods produced by forced labor. The WROs, issued on September 30th, cover five products imported from five different countries. This action was based on information obtained and reviewed by CBP that indicates that the products are produced, in whole or in part, using forced labor. Under U.S. law, it is illegal to import goods into the U.S that are made wholly or in part by forced labor, which includes convict labor, indentured labor, and forced or indentured child labor.
  • S. Government furthers the Principles to Guide Government Action to Combat Human Trafficking in Global Supply Chains (Principles). [247 KB] Launched jointly by the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, the Principles provide a framework for countries to prevent human trafficking in public and private sector supply chains. Since 2018, the five governments have met regularly to advance implementation of the Principles. The four Principles that are implemented by these governments are framed around the agreement that governments should: 1) take steps to prevent and address human trafficking in government procurement practices; 2) encourage the private sector to prevent and address human trafficking in its supply chains; 3) advance responsible recruitment policies and practices; and 4) strive for harmonization.
  • The Department of Commerce adds 28 governmental and commercial organizations in China to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List for human rights violations.  These entities have been implicated in committing or enabling human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of Beijing’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of religious and ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).   Being on the list imposes additional license requirements on, and limits the availability of most license exceptions for, exports, reexports, and transfers (in country) to listed entities.
  • The Department of State holds more than 15 meetings with an informal U.S. government interagency working group to monitor violence against environmental defenders in 2019. The group engaged stakeholders and reviewed United Nations, NGO, and U.S. government reporting about violence against environmental defenders to best inform U.S. policy.
  • The Department of State hosts a women’s empowerment responsible sourcing conference. The conference was attended by private industry, public sector, and civil society representatives to outline the Department’s women’s economic empowerment initiative, Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise (POWER). POWER will promote efforts to support women as entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly in emerging sectors.


U.S. Department of State

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