Video: Supply Chain Tainted by Forced Labor: Nearly $1 Billion in Goods Seized by CBP Since June 2022


The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was signed into law by President Biden on December 23, 2021. UFLPA officially entered into force on June 21, 2022.

UFLPA establishes a rebuttable presumption that “any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the People’s Republic of China, or produced by certain entities,” are not allowed to enter the United States based on Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930. In other words, generally, importers have to provide evidence demonstrating that the factories or entities involved in the production of their imported products have no connection to XUAR or are not involved in any forced labor practices in XUAR.

UFLPA affects not only US imports directly from China but also products from other countries. Notably, China is a critical textile raw material supplier for many leading apparel exporting countries in Asia, and over 90% of cotton “made in China” comes from XUAR.

According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), from June 2022 to April 2023, about 345 “textiles, apparel and footwear” shipments from mainland China ($13.45 million), 263 shipments from Vietnam ($13.3 million), 4 shipments from Sri Lanka ($1.64 million) and 46 shipments from other countries ($1.16 million) were affected by UFLPA enforcement.

Additional resources: CBP Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Statistics

Discussion questions:

  • What fashion brands and retailers can do to reduce the forced labor risks in apparel sourcing and why?
  • What are the complexity of removing forced labor in the textile and apparel supply chain and why?
  • Any other thoughts or reflections on the video?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

25 thoughts on “Video: Supply Chain Tainted by Forced Labor: Nearly $1 Billion in Goods Seized by CBP Since June 2022”

  1. This video personally shocked me with the sheer amount of consumer goods that were detained at the port that were not only apparel, footwear, and textiles, like we have talked about in class, but also electronics and other goods. I was surprised to hear about how they are alerted to the issue, and I wish they went into more detail about how they collect enough evidence to flag the containers. Immediately after hearing about this, I started thinking about how big data can eventually help the CBP in identifying containers that are connected with forced labor, so that they can keep their storage costs lower. Also, many of the cargo containers are not even coming from China, they are coming from Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, showing that raw goods are being used in manufacturing around the world from the Xinjiang region. This video brings the attention back to the fact that transparency in the supply chain is needed worldwide.

  2. One thing that really shocked me about this video was when they said that nearly a billion dollars worth of goods were halted at the port. And at the top of the list was electronics, followed by apparel, footwear, and textiles. UFLPA restrictions affect not only US imports directly from China but also products from other countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. This video just opened my eyes to the fact that the supply chain transparency is not as widely known for the majority of brands as it should be. Having so much more supply transparency can extremely help with sustainability efforts but I believe that a lot of brands are scared and worried of what theirs might look like and how consumers will react to the truth.

    1. That shocked me too! One billion dollars being halted definitely shocked me when watching this video. Supply chain transparency after watching this has shown me its importance as we don’t see how many imports we lose out on due to this act.

  3. This video really opened my eyes to the reality of UFLPA and how many imports don’t make it past the port from China into the US. With advancements in technology it amazed me how many electronics get stopped to align with the newest prevention act President Biden signed. While this act not only effects imports from China, other countries have been roped in due to their part in the Chinese supply chain that withholds them from trade with the US.

    1. I was shocked to at how much technology and electronics were stopped by customs. China is one of the most technologically advanced countries but I wouldn’t expect those kinds of items to have been made with forced labor.

  4. It was shocking to see how much merchandise was seized due to suspicions of forced labor, but it was impactful to see how much effort CBP puts into finding what merchandise has been created with forced labor, and that they provide a set amount of time in which the company has to prove they are not using forced labor. I found it very interesting that the names of the companies who were using forced labor couldn’t be revealed due to the Trade Safety Act, and it made me think what big name brands could have been responsible for using forced labor that we, as consumers, are not aware of.

  5. The video shocked me how apparel, textile and footwear are the most common items produced with forced labor. Its sad that this still continues in this day and time and many consumers don’t even know. I am very curious as to what tips customs received to flag these items because very little things like a button being produced in Xinjiang contributed to items being detained. I’ve seen some fashion brands talk about supply chain transparency and be open about their factories but more need to hop on this trend and own up to their mistakes and make changes. I am glad to see how effective Bidens policy is at stopping these item from coming in.

  6. I thought that this blog post was very relevant to some of our most recent topics discussed in 455. Supply chain security is a very important issue within the fashion industry. It is shocking the number of products that are held back and having to be stored due to the use of forced Labor. I was also surprised that these companies are not publicly announced and held accountable. It is very clear that one of the largest issues is that fashion companies are not aware of what is going on with their supply chains. It is incredibly important to have good relationships with your vendors and know how and where your products are being made starting with the raw products. Many of the companies have still not been able to prove that their supply chain did not involve forced labor. Having their products being held back teaches these companies to ensure that they do have good relationships with their suppliers at every tier. This blog post shows another reason why many fashion brands are looking to decrease China exposure and move production to areas where they can trust that forced labor is not an issue.

  7. I think at this point it has become very hard for US fashion retailers and companies to decipher where their products are coming from especially when you are talking about not only where a garment is made but where the fibers and yarns that compose the garment are from as well. I think the best solution for this current issue is for US fashion brands to invest in supply chain management teams. Currently, many brands do already have this in place, but as discussed in the video the sourcing of apparel can become very convoluted so to create a supply chain management team that is very extensive and are willing to travel to a large number of suppliers so they are aware of where their product is coming from seems to be the only option as of now. Unfortunately, this implementation will be very costly for brands but hopefully will be beneficial in the end.

  8. For various reasons, removing forced labor from the textile and clothing supply chain is a complicated and difficult issue. To begin with, the global textile and garment supply chain is highly fragmented, with numerous layers of suppliers and subcontractors, making tracing the root of labor abuse difficult. Many businesses rely on subcontractors and agencies to acquire labor and commodities, making it difficult to monitor compliance with labor laws and human rights. Second, forced labor is frequently concealed, making it difficult to identify and eliminate. Many workers face debt bondage or other types of coercion, making it difficult for them to speak up or expose their exploitation. Furthermore, many companies are located in rural places, making it difficult for labor rights advocates to monitor and uncover labor violations. (This also makes me question more of how the CBP was able to monitor these violations and open up the container–I would love to know more about how this process works.) Finally, tackling forced labor necessitates a collaborative effort from governments, civil society groups, and the commercial sector. Governments must enforce labor laws and hold firms accountable for infractions of labor regulations. Civil society groups must lobby for labor rights and give assistance to exploited employees. The business sector must assume responsibility for ensuring that their supply networks are free of forced labor, as well as engage in supply chain transparency and due diligence to detect and minimize labor hazards. I am not sure if we will ever be able to get to a point without forced labor, being as this would be hard to track with so much out-sourcing.

  9. I really enjoyed this video and article, because I find this topic to be really interesting. It is crazy to me that as consumers, many times we do not even know our products are being made by forced labor. It is vey sad to me that forced labor is still an ongoing issue. However, I am glad these products are being detained. I do not think forced labor should be allowed, nor should we as consumers be allowed to use these products being made with forced labor. It is great that the Biden administration has been very effective at refusing these items to come into our country. I also enjoy learning about politics and how it can relate to the fashion industry. This to me shows that no matter which side you are on, we can agree the Biden administration made a good call.

  10. I found this video to be extremely interesting and very relevant to what we talked about throughout this semester. I was very surprised at how much was detained at the New York/Newark Port, but even more surprised at how much went into stopping the forced labor in China. As talked about in class, it is clear that forced labor and unfit labor regulations are still present in numerous countries, but I had no idea what the UFLPA was and how serious it is taken at ports in the US. I do believe this is a good thing and t is keeping both US companies and the Asian regions from continuing to “allow” forced labor. I do believe inn order to create and maintain change, it starts with the US companies. If these companies continue to get their products from these factories, there is no incentive for the factories to stop their forced labor practices. It is also apparent that these factories need to continue business, so if US companies back out of trade with the factories, it would maybe make them reconsider their practices.

  11. I enjoyed both this video and article because I find it concerning as consumers, often times we don’t even know that our products are being made from forced labor. I don’t think forced labor should be tolerated or permitted, and it is truly concerning that this is still an ongoing issue. I think, at this point, it is crucial for US fashion companies to invest in supply chain management teams. Many companies do already have these teams in place, but as explained in the video, the sourcing of apparel can become twisted. To me, the only solution is if the supply chain management team is vigilant and willing to travel to all suppliers to make sure they are aware of where their products are coming from. Supply chain security is an extremely important issue within the fashion industry and each company needs to be transparent with their consumers. I found it disgusting the shocking the number of products that are held back and having to be stored due to the use of forced labor; and, that these companies are not publicly announced and held accountable.

  12. The video initially shocked me by just the sheer amount of goods that made there way all the way to the border just to get stopped right there. While the video did state that China was working hard to hide their forced labor practices from American businesses, it was crazy to see how many business have been blindsided. Though with the governments legislation and practices in effect you would think that business would do more researching into were they are sourcing from to avoid these problems and mishaps. Especially because it also puts the business in a bad spot with being not up to date with supplies and wasting money on sourcing.

  13. watching this video was really shocking. It is crazy how little we know about are apparel as consumers. This just further emphasizes how important supply chain transparency is. I think most consumers would not want to support forced labor they are just simply unaware if it. Thankfully we do have legislation such as the UFLPA to help combat this. One thought that crossed my mind while watching was “what is happening to these products that have already been produced using forced labor”. If the US is not allowing them into the country are they being shipped back to China, are the sold elsewhere, or are they going to waist. Not that I think we should support forced labor but from a sustainability stand point I cannot imagine these products simply going to waist. In order to avoid this we must start at the root of the issue. Obviously the US and China have a complicated relationship and it is outside of jurisdiction to enforce legislation to prohibit forced labor in Xinjiang. With this in mind I think the responsibility then fall to fashion brands and retailers. Many big brands are so focused on finding the best deal they loose their ethics. Brands need to be aware of their supply chain in order to ensure that they are not contributing to any aspect of forced labor. In order the enforce this brands must be held to a standard of transparency. If forced to publish their supply chain brands are unlikely to source from places of forced labor. This is just one step in attempts to reduce the forced labor risks in apparel.

  14. After watching this video, I was quite shocked to see how many goods are seized due to child labor. With that, I was also impressed with the United States for being accountable when modern slavery is taking place. To reduce risks of this happening again, companies should be doing extensive research on the factories they are sourcing from. This way, all of the supplies do not need to go to waste because they will not purchase it in the first place. Additionally, they can communicate with factories and express in advance they will not be purchasing unless they are complying with child labor laws. Removing forced labor can be quite complex because often times it is the reason textiles and apparels are so cheap in other areas. This is an ever-lasting issue with much room for progress.

  15. I found it interesting the videos research that challenges the widely held notion that achieving particular goals, such as wealth or fame, will increase happiness. This is one fascinating aspect of the video. Since the human brain is able to adapt, Dan Gilbert, the speaker in the video, explains that while achieving such goals may provide momentary pleasure, we will eventually return to our pre-goal happiness level. The term “hedonic treadmill” refers to this phenomenon. He advises us to put more effort into forging solid social bonds and partaking in pursuits that truly fulfill us rather than pursuing material possessions or achievements.

  16. This video was truly shocking. Hearing that since June, $1 billion worth of goods were seized made me realize that forced labor is a lot worse than thought. Keep in mind, this is just the amount they caught, not all of the goods that were imported from forced labor are accounted for. While the US has ways to track if the goods were made illegally, I still think their sources do not know fully which goods were made illegally, even with their export cargo targeting systems. Thinking of this, makes the monetary value of the goods seized even more shocking. I think a way fashion companies can reduce the forced labor risks in apparel sourcing is to be more transparent about what their company values to the countries they source from. However, if a company is unaware that forced labor is going on, a good way to reduce this issue is to strengthen its relationship with them. This will allow fashion companies to be more aware of what is going on in the factory and voice their concern if something unethical/illegal is happening.

  17. It was honestly upsetting, as well as shocking, to see how many shipments were denied due to the suspicion of forced labor practices. This topic has been previously discussed in class, but I had not realized the extreme extent that it has gone to. One billion dollars of seized goods, brands losing millions, and big brands attempting to prove their supply chain is clean is unbelievable. This has caused not only a supply chain issue, but an economical one as almost half of the goods have been denied. This has opened an awareness to consumers to check brands supply chains that they support. This video has also made me think about the brands that I shop at and question their transparency and ethical practices. Having this transparency would also force brands to be more sustainable since consumers will be able to hold them accountable for their actions.

  18. After watching this video I realized I am naive to the amount of forced labor that still takes place in the 21st century. I had no idea that an entire region in China is known for what is essentially modern day slavery. It is essential that the US government is cracking down on goods that are produced unethically and it is the responsibility of the brand to ensure that their supply chain is clean. While this can be difficult because supply chains can be convoluted, it is unacceptable for brands to not know where their products are coming from. As the video stated, many of the shipping containers seized came from other countries like Malaysia, not directly from the Xinjiang region, so it can be difficult to differentiate. I think brands need to send representatives directly to the factories they wish to use to ensure that the conditions are safe and the factories are reputable.

  19. This video brings up many important ethical issues within the supply chain aspect of this course. I say “this course” rather than the apparel industry because, from the video, it is clear that these supply chain issues extend past the fashion realm. I could not believe the sheer size of the suspected good they put on hold – one billion dollars is very serious. I also think this brings to light another issue. I believe the fashion industry gets some of the most criticism for ethically questionable working conditions/ human rights issues (reasonably so). Still, consumers often forget that forced labor is also an issue in many other fields. Whether it be solar panels or electronics, there are bound to be serious issues and questionable values when sourcing items beyond apparel/textiles. Nonetheless, it is clear through the data and figures that the Apparel and Fashion sector has experienced these ethical issues since 41% of shipments have been denied over labor concerns. It is important as consumers to keep an eye out on these issues and be conscious of the sourcing from products we buy, regardless of what kind of product it is. We must investigate if we could be perpetuating forced labor.

    1. You bring up a very valid point that most people just focus on how unethical the fashion industry is. Many people, including myself before watching this video, don’t realize the gravity of forced labor and how many industries it expands across. It’s insane to me just how prevalent these unethical practices are today. You would assume that there are more laws governing labor practices in other countries.

  20. I found it shocking that $1 Billion worth of products were detained. It’s really honorable that CBP takes such strict precautions to prevent goods that were produced with slave labor from entering the U.S. Too many U.S. fashion companies do not know their supply chain. There is little transparency in the global textile and apparel industry, as this video demonstrates. Obviously forced labor is a terrible practice that has been going on for way longer than it should. However, it lowers production costs significantly, which is why it is still so prevalent. With proper and fair working conditions in place, production costs would increase. In turn, U.S. companies and consumers would have to pay more for goods. While this would cause a lot of commotion, it is what needs to be done to make the textile and apparel industry a safer place.

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