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Seafood, Aluminum, PVC Added to UFLPA Priority Sectors

The administration has added seafood, PVC, which is used in vinyl flooring, and aluminum to its priority enforcement sectors under the Ugyhur Forced Labor Prevention Act, it announced in its strategy update this week. This is the first time priority sectors have been added since the law went into effect two years ago; the original priority sectors of apparel, cotton products, polysilicon and solar panels made from polysilicon, and tomatoes remain.

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In explaining why PVC was chosen, the fact sheet published by DHS July 9 said that UFLPA enforcement has already led to a decline in vinyl flooring imports of 48% in the last 12 months "as U.S. importers shifted away from suppliers that utilized XUAR-sourced PVC in certain flooring products. Industry reports acknowledge these shifts away from PRC supply chains and have resulted in new and expanded PVC and flooring production capacities in the United States, Mexico, India and Vietnam." The fact sheet said that 10% of PVC is produced in Xinjiang.

The administration noted that the UFLPA Entity List has already had aluminum, PVC and seafood processors added this year, and said that the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, which runs the Entity List, "will continue to prioritize review for additional entities in these sectors."

Domestic shrimpers lauded the addition of seafood, noting that a journalistic investigation by the Outlaw Ocean Project documented how Uyghurs were forced to move to the coast and work in seafood processing plants. The group said they had asked for seafood to be a priority sector in January (see 2401110073).

"China’s shrimp processing sector significantly impacts the U.S. shrimp market. A review of bill of ladings data indicates that at least 12 million pounds of Argentine red shrimp processed in China were exported to the United States in 2023," the Southern Shrimp Alliance wrote. Executive Director John Williams added, "With today’s announcement, U.S. importers are made aware that processing seafood in China, while cheap, may come at a tremendous cost.”

The updated strategy went into depth on how FLETF will expand the Entity List, which currently has 68 names. The task force will be adding new companies to the list more rapidly as it improves its process, making it a "more transparent, consistent, and scalable methodology."

The strategy said that up to this point, the task force focused on finding "entities that egregiously and openly engage in behavior prohibited by the UFLPA" as it built out the list. "However, the FLETF is also initiating reviews of potential candidates for the UFLPA Entity List that involve more complex relationships due to the lack of visibility into PRC supply chains," the strategy said -- including naming exporters who do not directly employ transferred workers, but distribute goods produced by entities that are on the list for employing transfered Uyghur workers or that operate in Xinjiang's Autonomous Uyghur Region.

"The FLETF continues to pursue new technology and new methods to identify companies under all relevant sub-lists of the UFLPA Entity List," the strategy said, and said that any subsidiaries that are identified, as well as additions, removals or technical corrections will be published in the Federal Register.

"FLETF agency analysts may identify entities for potential addition through searches of academic, non-profit, media, and other public reports; private sector and civil society organization (CSO) information sharing; recommendations from Congress; and independent open-source research," the strategy said.

"The FLETF considers the source’s methodology, prior publications, degree of familiarity and experience with international labor standards, forced labor schemes, and the XUAR, as well as its reputation for accuracy and objectivity. FLETF member agencies conduct independent research to verify and, where possible, expand on any allegations or evidence they receive."

The fact sheet said that "CBP’s [UFLPA] enforcement has been strong and surgical," and noted that agents have reviewed more than 9,000 shipments valued at more than $3.4 billion, including apparel, automotive parts, chemicals, electronics, flooring and solar panels. The press release announcing the strategy updates noted that shipments that did not enter the U.S., either because importers chose to reexport and not challenge the detention, or because companies were unable to prove there was no connection to Uyghur forced labor in the supply chain, were a distinct minority of those reviewed. By value, they were 20%; by numbers, about 40%. However, some of the detained shipments are still under review.

The strategy also informed Congress that the money it has dedicated to UFLPA so far, which has resulted in 338 new CBP positions, isn't enough.

DHS's Office of Policy and Plans, whose undersecretary leads the FLETF, said it needs 10 more attorneys, 10 research analysts, five policy analysts, two Mandarin translators as well as operations staffers to support expert contractors and outreach, and money for technology.

The Treasury Department and International Bureau of Labor Affairs (ILAB), which also participate in the FLETF, also said they wanted more staff, but didn't specify how many. Homeland Security Investigations said it needs $5.6 million to fund 20 positions to enforce UFLPA.

CBP said the president's budget request would continue funding for its new UFLPA hires and would pay for country of origin tracing and "forced labor technologies."

"This continued support is essential to strengthening CBP’s authority to prevent goods made with forced labor from entering U.S. commerce today and for the future," the strategy said.

"In the coming year, CBP will increase its capabilities to include projects such as UFLPA-specific modifications to the Automated Commercial Environment, the Seized Asset and Case Tracking System, and Advanced Trade Analytics Platform to improve analytical modeling of supply chains and threat indicators of evasion. Additionally, CBP will provide analytical and technical capabilities support to the FLETF to facilitate entity analysis and additions to the UFLPA Entity List. Moreover, CBP will implement system enhancements that will allow CBP to strengthen its UFLPA enforcement mission by broadening targeting and screening across the tariff schedule and in high-risk environments (i.e., de minimis and postal) and increasing audits of potential UFLPA violators to increase identification of illicit actors and illegal transshipment schemes."

CBP also plans to launch a Forced Labor Case Management portal "to modernize the UFLPA applicability review process."