The European Parliament is tightening its stance on keeping products made using forced labour, including cocoa, out of the EU market.
This Monday (16 October) the Internal Market and International Trade committees voted for a draft regulation proposed last year, which would provide a framework to investigate the use of forced labour in companies’ supply chains.
If a company is proven to have used forced labour within its supply chain, all import and export of the related goods would be halted at the EU’s borders under the regulation.
Companies would also have to withdraw goods that have already reached the EU market, which would then be donated, recycled or destroyed.
MEPs amended the commission proposal to task the Commission with creating a list of geographical areas and economic sectors at high risk of using forced labour. For goods produced in these high-risk areas, authorities would no longer need to prove that people have been forced to work, as the burden of proof would fall on companies.
The committees also want goods that have been removed from the market to be allowed to re-enter only after the company has demonstrated that forced labour in its operations or supply chain has ceased, and any relevant cases have been remedied.
Additionally, the definition of forced labour used in the text has been updated, aligning to International Labour Organization standards, to include “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily”.
Co-rapporteur Samira Rafaela, of Renew Europe, said that the ban voted for this week will be essential in blocking products made using modern slavery.
She commented: “It will protect whistle-blowers, provide remedy to victims, and defend our businesses and SMEs from unethical competition. Our text includes strong provisions on a database and is gender-responsive, all key elements for sustained impact.”
The two committees adopted the draft report with 66 votes for, none against and ten abstentions. Once council adopts its position, talks can follow over the regulation’s final shape.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2023