The U.S bans more products from Malaysia because of forced labor

The United States has been banning imports of gloves and palm oil coming from several Malaysian companies because of forced labor. With products from 4 companies currently banned entry in the U.S., only China surpasses Malaysia on suspicions of forced labor.

Disposable gloves
The U.S. banned import of disposable gloves from Malaysia because of forced labor production conditions | Illustration

On November 4, the United States Customs and Border Protection announced it banned imports of products from a Malaysian conglomerate manufacturing disposable glove.

According to the CBP acting commissioner, the company Smart Gloves failed to abide to the country laws against forced labor. “CBP issued a Withhold Release Order against disposable gloves produced by Smart Glove based on information that reasonably indicates that Smart Glove production facilities utilize forced labor“.

Founded in 1995, Smart Glove produces disposable gloves used in the medical, food or science industry and operates in Malaysia and Indonesia.

During its investigation, CBP identified seven of the eleven indicators of forced labor. Created by the International Labour Association U.N. agency, those indicators include restriction of movement, violence or excessive overtime but the CBP didn’t specify which ones were found at Smart Glove facilities.

4 million disposable gloves seized in Cleveland

Since September 2019, the U.S issued six Withhold Release Orders on Malaysian companies because of forced labor.

In October 2021, Malaysia’s Supermax Corporation disposable gloves are also refused entry on American soil.

Earlier this year, the Customs and Border Protection seized imported gloves produced in Malaysia from another company, Top Glove, based on indications of modern slavery, excessive overtime, abusive working and living conditions, and retention of identity documents.

With a ban on Top Glove imports from July 2020, CBP personnel in Cleveland seized a shipment of almost 4 million nitrile disposable gloves for an estimated value of $518,000.

Malaysian gloves seized by U.S. Customs in Cleveland
Malaysian gloves seized by U.S. Customs in Cleveland, worth half a million dollars | © CBP

But in September 2021, CBP removed its order and accepted imports from Top Glove after addressing the concerns. They issued “more than $30 million in remediation payments to workers and improved labor and living conditions at the company’s facilities”.

In September 2019, WRP Asia Pacific Sdn from Malaysia had also its disposable rubber gloves confiscated because of forced labor. The ban was revoked in March 2020.

In the end of last year, palm oil and palm oil products of Sime Darby Plantation Berhad from Malaysia were withheld because of the presence of all 11 indicators of forced labor.

In September 2020, another Malaysian palm oil production conglomerate, FGV Holdings Berhad, started to see its goods refused at U.S. borders because of forced labor, on top of concerns about use of forced child labor.

Overall, between August 2020 and 2021, CPB issued 7 WROs based on indications of forced labor. One from Malaysia, 4 on products from China and especially products coming from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, one from a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel and another one for a fishing vessel tagged in Fiji.

In the list of Withhold Release Orders published by the CBP on forced labor, 12 countries have been affected by at least one order. Malaysia, with 6 WROs including 4 active ones, is only surpassed by China by far (44 active orders).

Read more about Malaysia

CBP issues Withhold Release Order on Malaysian glove producers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, November 2021, Free accessILO INDICATORS OF FORCED LABOUR, International Labour Organization, Free accessCBP Modifies Forced Labor Finding on Top Glove Corporation Bhd., CBP, September 2021, Free accessWithhold Release Orders and Findings List, CBP, Free access

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