Editorial: Shutting off the flow of slave labor goods to the U.S.
The United States has for 86 years banned the import of goods produced using forced labor — unless, as the Tariff Act of 1930 put it, the goods “are not mined, produced, or manufactured in such quantities in the United States as to meet the consumptive demands of the United States.” That’s right, you read it correctly: The nation stands against importing goods made by slave labor unless we really want them.
It is the use of forced labor on fishing boats and factory ships based in Southeast Asia that have helped drive this despicable practice into public view. For years, migrant workers there have fallen into the hands of unscrupulous human traffickers who sell them to ship captains, who use brutal violence and the isolation of the high seas to maintain control. The Guardian and the Associated Press have documented the practice, closely linked to Thailand’s fishing industry, as have some advocacy groups.
Human rights groups have hailed the closing of the import loophole, as well as similar steps being taken in Europe, as significant actions to curb international slavery. Enforcement will be key, but banning forced-labor imports and requiring more transparency in supply chains will make it harder to exploit vulnerable people around the world. Will this mean higher costs for consumers? Maybe. But if the trade-off for cheap imports is supporting slavery, then let the prices rise.
A cure for the common opinion
Get thought-provoking perspectives with our weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.