ATEST Joins 30+ Organizations to Oppose Industry Proposal that could Increase Imports of Forced Labor Products into U.S.

October 20, 2022

The Honorable Chris Magnus
Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20229

Re: Open Letter on Trade Data Transparency

Dear Commissioner Magnus,

The undersigned organizations and advocates write to express our collective outrage at a  recent proposal driven by industry groups as part of the Commercial Customs Operations  Advisory Committee (COAC) to shield ocean freight manifests from disclosure. If adopted,  the proposal would eviscerate the already limited access to customs data that is currently  available to civil society. Public disclosure of vessel manifest data is essential to civil society,  investigative journalists, and workers’ rights organizations, especially as we work to support  effective enforcement of the U.S. Tariff Act and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act  (UFLPA).

The COAC proposal advocates additional problematic legislative amendments, which if  accepted, would further derail forced labor investigations and enforcement under Section  307 of the U.S. Tariff Act, 1930, as well as under the UFLPA. An article published by the  Associated Press (AP) on October 18, 2022 revealed these proposals. The amendments in  question would profoundly hobble the agency’s ability to enforce forced labor laws, as well  as the ability of civil society to share evidence of forced labor in U.S. supply chains. As the  agency charged with the enforcement of these laws, CBP’s perspective is given a great deal  of weight, both within the Administration and on Capitol Hill, and it is absolutely critical that  CBP reject these proposed changes outright.

Public disclosure of import/export data is critical to tracing and monitoring forced labor risks  in supply chains. Transparency of trade data is already far too limited. Currently, U.S. federal  law (19 U.S.C § 1431) provides for public access only to ocean freight data. Data on air and  land cargo is still not accessible to the public. Moreover, U.S. law already grants both  importers and shippers the right to request confidentiality of their data on a case-by-case  basis (19 C.F.R. § 103.31).

The trajectory should be for more transparency, not less. We advocate for disclosure of air,  road, and rail manifests, in addition to maritime vessel manifests, while the COAC proposal  seeks to shroud all import data behind a thick veil of secrecy. We urge CBP to reject calls for  more “confidentiality” and instead disclose all types of customs data – air, rail, maritime and  road – to the public. In addition, we urge CBP not to fall prey to proposals that will drive up  the procedural complexity of the forced labor enforcement process, placing burdens both  on CBP and civil society that are intended to operate as barriers to the enforcement of  existing law.

In sum, U.S. companies can not publicly claim to oppose forced labor, while lobbying the U.S.  Government to shield their supply chains from scrutiny. The effort to hide trade data is aimed  at hindering enforcement of provisions banning imports of goods tainted by forced labor,  and serves no legitimate public purpose. This is a shameful example of corporate overreach  to protect profits by disabling efforts to hold perpetrators accountable.

We call on CBP to demonstrate its continued commitment to combating forced labor in  global supply chains by rejecting this cynical call for confidentiality of vessel manifest data  along with any other associated proposals. For years, U.S. advocates fought to remove  loopholes that had crippled enforcement of Section 307 of the U.S. Tariff Act, culminating in  the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act (TFTEA) of 2015. Now is not the  time for the U.S. Government to move in precisely the opposite direction.

We therefore respectfully request that CBP publicly oppose, and summarily reject, the call  for additional import data confidentiality.


Advocating Opportunity

Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST)

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

Anti-Slavery International

Campaign for Uyghurs

Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

Corporate Accountability Lab


Free the Slaves

Freedom Network USA

Freedom United

Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF)

Greenpeace USA

HEAL Trafficking

Human Rights Watch

Humanity United Action

International Campaign for the Rohingya

International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR)

Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom

No Business with Genocide


Oxfam America


Safe Horizon, Inc

Solidarity Center

The Freedom Fund

The Human Trafficking Legal Center


Uyghur American Association

Uyghur Freedom Forum

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project


Worker Rights Consortium

World Uyghur Congress

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca
Professor from Practice, University of Michigan Law School

Sabra Boyd
Sabra Boyd LLC

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