On September 30, 2020, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a press release announcing that effective September 30 at all U.S. ports of entry, CBP will detain palm oil and palm oil products made by FGV Holdings Berhad and its subsidiaries and joint ventures.
CBP’s Office of Trade directed the issuance of a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against palm oil and palm oil products made by FGV based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor. The order is the result of a year-long investigation that revealed forced labor indicators including abuse of vulnerability, deception, restriction of movement, isolation, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, withholding of wages, debt bondage, abusive working and living conditions, and excessive overtime. The investigation also raised concerns that forced child labor is potentially being used in FGV’s palm oil production process.
All WROs are publically available and listed by country on the CBP’s Forced Labor Withhold Release Orders and Findings page. The Forced Labor Division, established in 2018 within CBP’s Office of Trade, leads the enforcement of the prohibition on the importation of goods made from forced labor.
19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise mined, manufactured, or produced, wholly or in part, by forced labor, including convict labor, forced child labor, and indentured labor. This WRO will require detention of palm oil produced by FGV and any palm oil products or derivatives traceable to palm oil produced by FGV at all US ports of entry. CBP provides importers of detained shipments an opportunity to export their shipments or to submit proof that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.