CBP Reveals Apparel Detentions Since UFLPA Became Law

Date: Friday, March 17, 2023
Source: Sourcing Journal

More than 600 fashion shipments have been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) went into effect last June, the agency reported in a new dashboard released Tuesday.

The interactive digital tool, launched on the first day of the inaugural CBP Forced Labor Technical Expo in Washington, D.C., offers high-level insights into the sectors, shipments, countries and dollar values caught up in the landmark legislation, which holds the rebuttable presumption that goods originating from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were produced in whole or in part by Uyghurs and Turkic ethnic minorities toiling under duress.

CBP has been developing the dashboard “for a while,” AnneMarie Highsmith, executive assistant commissioner for CBP’s Office of Trade, said during a press briefing at the expo.

“We didn’t know what data was going to come out of enforcement,” she said, pointing to the challenge of compiling the findings “in a way that will provide value to the folks who are really needing to figure it out.”

From June 21-March 3, CBP has detained 631 shipments containing apparel, footwear and textiles valued at more than $29.5 million for scrutiny under UFLPA, according to the dashboard. But that pales in comparison to the 1,627 detentions of electronics goods, which includes polysilicon and solar panel products, Highsmith noted. Of the total 3,237 shipments valued at $961 million that were flagged for closer inspection, CBP released 1,090 and blocked 424 others. Another 1,723 are still in limbo, while Highsmith confirmed that the agency has received three pending exception requests. The dashboard, which CBP plans to update quarterly, doesn’t break down the denials by industry to shield sensitive company information, she added.

Data on shipment value by country of origin finds China lagging Malaysia’s roughly $419 million and the nearly $370 million from Vietnam. Just shy of $90 million worth of shipments flagged by CBP came out of China, suggesting the scale of the transshipping problem.

Third-country manufacturing, where countries beyond China produce goods made with inputs from Xinjiang, is becoming increasingly common, said Eric Choy, executive director of trade remedy law enforcement for CBP’s Office of Trade.

What’s more, the dashboard’s data illustrates the apparel and textiles sector’s progress in cleaning up their China supply chains, Highsmith said. “We have been enforcing WROs against Xinjiang cotton since 2020, and so most importers have adjusted their supply chains in order to eliminate merchandise coming from the Xinjiang region already,” she said. “We still do see [questionable apparel and textile shipments], but not in the quantities that you would expect.”

On top of that, she continued, many of the bigger apparel companies have verticalized their operations and are buying their own non-China cotton to avoid the Xinjiang risk and gain “more control from the cotton field up through manufacturing.” Even smaller companies are changing things up, including buying only American-grown cotton.

CBP is trying to expand its ranks to handle the rising volume of inspection and compliance responsibilities, recruiting new targeters, international trade analysts, investigators, and innovation experts skilled in AI and machine learning “who are interacting with some of [technology providers] who are providing tools to help us improve our targeting,” Highsmith said. The agency is also investing in technology to be “as surgical as possible in our targeting,” and to modernize the “relatively manual” detention processes, she added.

“It’s really been all hands on deck because the enforcement mission has become so large,” she said.


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