Responding to Communist China’s concentration camps for its minority Uighur population which include allegations of forced labor, involuntary abortions and other abuse, the Customs & Border Protection Agency (“CBP”) has increased its focus on products that it suspects originate in their home province of Xinjiang.
You may recall that CBP recently issued a Withhold Release Order targeting cotton and tomatoes produced in Xinjiang Province. Basically, a WRO authorizes the detention by CBP of tomato and cotton products having any connection to China’s Uighur-majority province of Xinjiang and extends this limitation to any product made in whole or in part from them in China or any third nation. As a result, US importers are faced with proving a negative – that the products covered by the import entry have no connection to that province of Red China. WROs can lead to detention of your goods, their mandated redelivery to a CBP port within 30 days after their conditional release or the assessment of liquidated damages against your entry bonds. In order to obtain the release of detained goods, To obtain their release, the importer must provide a Certificate of Origin verifying that forced labor was not utilized in producing the goods, supplemented by an importer statement verifying the lack of forced labor involvement in producing the goods. These documents must be supplemented by evidence from each step of the supply chain indicating that the cotton products or tomatoes (and items made from, or with them) did not originate in Xinjiang Province.
If you import, to protect your company you should consider obtaining signed verifications from your suppliers that their goods do not originate in whole or in part from China. You should also maintain detailed records for every step of your supply chain and consider the hiring of third party agencies to investigate and verify product origin.
Robin W. Grover