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US Takes “America First” Tone to Slave-Made Goods

  • Published on
    September 20, 2018
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Child Slavery, Forced Labor, Supply Chain
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The US Department of Labor has taken a new “America First” tone in publishing its biennial list of foreign goods made using slave or child labor.

Rather than seeing forced labor as primarily a human rights issue, the US government has reframed this as a trade issue, arguing that it is fighting against slave-made goods in order to “safeguard American jobs.”

Related Campaign: Help end forced labor.

In announcing the DOL list — comprised of 148 goods produced in 76 countries — Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said, “American workers cannot compete with producers abroad who use child labor or forced labor.”

“The U.S. will do what it takes to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation, safeguard American jobs, and create a fair playing field for countries that play by the rules,” he added.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

More than $400 billion worth of goods likely to be made by forced labor enter the U.S. market each year, said Annick Febrey, director of government relations with the Human Trafficking Institute, which advocates to end modern slavery.

“Child labor and forced labor are abhorrent practices that run counter to American values,” Martha Newton, deputy undersecretary of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.

She said the Department of Labor’s change in tone echoed President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda on international trade issues and could mean a more sustained effort to block forced labor-made goods from entering the country.

“It’s reflective of the current administration’s trade policies and focus on America First,” Febrey told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Eric Gottwald, legal and policy director for the International Labor Rights Forum in Washington DC, said he was struck by the Department of Labor’s new stance on forced labor being a problem because it puts American workers at a competitive disadvantage.

Historically, US foreign policy has considered goods made using slave labor as a gross violation of human rights.

“The current administration has placed more emphasis on…how American workers shouldn’t have to compete with forced or child laborers,” he said.

It became a crime to import goods made using forced or child labor in 2016 under a law introduced by President Barack Obama.


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Kevin Butterfield
5 years ago
Reply to  D.

I don’t care about the motivation, as long as it helps end child and forced labor.

5 years ago

Despite an effort to condemn the reasons behind the America 1st campaign, you’re wrong. For decades American corporations sold out their own working class laborers in favor of cheaper, exploitable labor overseas to make a profit. This in turn grew slavery and worker exploitation, depleting jobs here. Trump and the DOL want to holistically address this, there is an assumption it’s ONLY to put America 1st in some jingoistic fashion. It’s not, it’s @ stopping it at the root of the problem.

Joe Sanders
Joe Sanders
5 years ago


5 years ago

He’s not delusional or living on another planet. Amerikkka only is considered with there interests and bottom line(profits). If you have an actual reference to when that is not the case then spit it out otherwise keep your comments respectful because you haven’t made any good points and all you’ve been saying is a lot of self centered propaganda. Amerikkka first hurt other nations, that’s a fact. EU, China, Russia… first will lead to WW3 because nobody is willing to be last. Ultimate outcome!

Rob Watt
Rob Watt
5 years ago
Reply to  Todd Clay

Well said, Todd. Unfortunately the ‘American buying power’ means that they can always say what they like about ‘what is right’ & ‘what is wrong’, but when push comes to shove it is their wallets that matter more to them than ANYTHING else. This also applies to ALL ‘big businesses’ & ‘organisations’ in ANY country, not just America.

I do not object to profit, I just object to HOW that profit (& how obscenely much) is often made by the powerful at the expense of the powerless.

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