For companies who have been importing products to be used in the US made by slave labor, their time has come. After 85 years of turning a blind eye to such an abhorrent practice, the US government has finally decided to close the loophole in the Tariff Act of 1930.
Up until 2015, many American companies imported goods from countries that use slave labor claiming that the domestic production was not adequate to keep up with the demand. Last week the US senate voted to close the loophole which now bars items made by forced convicts or indentured labor.
Data released by the United Nations indicate that nearly 21 million people are used as slaves to make products which are sold for profits, resulting in illicit revenues of over $150 billion each year.
The loophole in the Tariffs Act was known for a long time, but politicians were never sure if closing it would make any difference outside the US. They felt that blocking goods coming to America would simply result in the diversion of products to other countries with no such laws.
However, the US senators guided by their moral beliefs were convinced that child and slave labor was simply not acceptable and steps must be taken to stop this form of conduct. While the bill was easily passed in the senate, there were at least 20 members of the senate who voted against it. President Obama has already stated that he intends to sign the bipartisan legislation.
With the loophole closed, the US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be extra vigilant for preventing entry of any goods derived from slavery. While cracking down on companies who import slave made products is going to start soon, so far no one has released the names of all the companies or industries that were previously involved in such transactions.
However, in California several lawsuits have been filed accusing Hershey Inc, Mars Inc and Nestle SA of ignoring slave labor in West African countries on the cocoa plantations. Nestle has responded by saying it has set up pilot monitoring program on some farms and will be extending such services to many other countries.
The California law has also inspired change in the UK where the Modern Slavery Act passed last year. Many other EU countries including France are considering legislation on this matter soon.