ILAB's work supports the President's and the Secretary of Labor's labor and foreign policy objectives and meets congressional mandates. Learn more about the laws and regulations relevant to our work below.
On May 18, 2000, the President signed into law the Trade and Development Act (TDA). The TDA established a new eligibility criterion requiring that countries make efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor for receipt of trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences program, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, and the Andean Trade Preference Act/Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.
The TDA requires the Secretary of Labor to issue annual findings on beneficiary country initiatives to implement their international commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. As a result of this requirement, the Department of Labor has published the Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor report annually since 2002. The report covers approximately 140 countries and territories and provides information on the worst forms of child labor in goods and services, as well as information on country efforts, including laws, enforcement, policies and programs. The 2011 report introduced a new tool to assess government action to advance efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.
On January 10, 2006, the President signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005. Section 105(b)(1) of Act directed the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, to "carry out additional activities to monitor and combat forced labor and child labor in foreign countries." Section 105(b)(2) listed these activities as:
- Monitor the use of forced labor and child labor in violation of international standards;
- Provide information regarding trafficking in persons for the purpose of forced labor to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of the Department of State for inclusion in [the] trafficking in persons report required by Section 110(b) of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7107(b));
- Develop and make available to the public a list of goods from countries that the Bureau of International Labor Affairs has reason to believe are produced by forced labor or child labor in violation of international standards;
- Work with persons who are involved in the production of goods on the list described in subparagraph (C) to create a standard set of practices that will reduce the likelihood that such persons will produce goods using the labor described in such subparagraph;
- and Consult with other departments and agencies of the United States Government to reduce forced and child labor internationally and ensure that products made by forced labor and child labor in violation of international standards are not imported into the United States.
On December 23, 2008, a new reauthorization of the legislation came into force, which required that ILAB publish an initial list of goods pursuant to section (C) and report to Congress on its implementation of TVPRA mandates on or before January 15, 2010.
On September 10, 2009, ILAB released its initial "list of goods from countries" (List), pursuant to Section 105(b)(2)(C) of the TVPRA of 2005. Included in the initial List were 122 goods from 58 countries that ILAB has reason to believe are produced by forced labor, child labor or both, in violation of international standards. The report includes a bibliography of the sources used to make determinations about each good on the List.
Executive Order 13126 on the "Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor," was signed on June 12, 1999. The Executive Order is intended to ensure that U.S. federal agencies do not procure goods made by forced or indentured child labor. It requires the Department of Labor, in consultation with the Departments of State and Homeland Security, to publish and maintain a list of products, by country of origin, which the three Departments have a reasonable basis to believe might have been mined, produced, or manufactured by forced or indentured child labor. Under the procurement regulations implementing the Executive Order, federal contractors who supply products on a list published by the Department of Labor must certify that they have made a good faith effort to determine whether forced or indentured child labor was used to produce the items listed.
- View Executive Order 13126 [Text] [PDF]
- Learn more about the List of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor
The 2008 Farm Bill established a Consultative Group to Eliminate the Use of Child Labor and Forced Labor in Imported Agricultural Products, composed of 13 members including ILAB's Deputy Undersecretary. The mandate of this Consultative Group was to develop guidelines for companies that import agricultural products to address child labor and forced labor in their supply chains. The Group issued detailed guidelines and completed its work in 2012.
The GSP program has provided preferential duty-free entry of more than 4,650 products from approximately 142 countries and territories since 1976. Products and countries must meet certain criteria to be eligible for duty-free entry under the GSP.
Among the criteria for determining country eligibility, the statute requires that beneficiary countries have taken, or are taking, steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights, including:
- the right of association,
- the right to organize and bargain collectively,
- freedom from compulsory labor,
- a minimum age for the employment of children,
- acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health, and
- a prohibition against the worst forms of child labor.
Countries may be removed from GSP eligibility if it is found that they fail to meet the established criteria, including those on workers' rights. For example, in June 2013 GSP benefits for Bangladesh were suspended for failure to address freedom of association violations and ongoing safety issues in the garment sector.
Stakeholders requesting the US government to review product or country eligibility may submit petitions to the Trade Policy Staff Committee, an interagency body chaired by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that administers trade programs. ILAB represents DOL on the inter-agency TPSC, participating in reviews of all products and countries, and plays a key role as an expert agency in reviews of worker rights criteria.
In addition to monitoring and reporting functions within the interagency, DOL-ILAB engages directly with foreign governments and stakeholders in beneficiary countries to advocate for improved labor practices.
See here for USTR's description of the GSP program. For information about current and on-going reviews, public submissions can be found at www.regulations.gov. As of July 2013, when the statutory authorization of GSP lapsed, the U.S. Government was reviewing labor rights petitions in Georgia, Iraq, Niger, Fiji, Philippines, Uzbekistan, and had received a petition to review the eligibility of Thailand.
AGOA is the cornerstone of U.S. trade and investment policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Through AGOA, the US promotes free markets, expands U.S.-African trade and investment, stimulates economic growth, and facilitates sub-Saharan Africa's integration into the global economy. At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, combined with the preferences under GSP, allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.
AGOA requires the President to determine annually whether sub-Saharan African countries are, or remain, eligible for benefits based on their progress in meeting criteria set out in the Act. These criteria include continual progress toward the establishment of a market-based economy and the rule of law, the elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment, implementation of economic policies to reduce poverty, the protection of internationally recognized worker rights, and establishment of a system to combat corruption. Additionally, countries cannot engage in: i) violations of internationally recognized human rights ii) support for acts of international terrorism, or iii) activities that undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.
ILAB sits on the interagency AGOA Subcommittee of the TPSC, which conducts the annual eligibility review of all beneficiary countries, drawing on all sources of information. For more information on AGOA, see USTR's webpage on the program.
The CBTPA facilitates the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies. Initially launched in 1983 through the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), and substantially expanded in 2000 through the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), the preference program provides 18 beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods, including Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. In particular, CBTPA provides for duty- and quota-free access for apparel products manufactured in designated beneficiary Caribbean Basin region. CBTPA benefits are granted in addition to existing GSP benefits, and therefore GSP labor eligibility criteria and processes remain applicable to CBTPA beneficiaries. For more information, see USTR's description of the Caribean Basin Initiative and the role of CBTPA.
While Haiti has long benefited from the GSP and CBTPA programs, Congress provided additional economic benefits for Haiti in 2006. Originally known as the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2006 (HOPE I), the HOPE act provided preferential access to U.S. imports of Haitian apparel made from less expensive third-country inputs, provided Haiti met certain rules of origin and eligibility criteria, such as progress on worker rights, poverty reduction, and anti-corruption measures. These benefits were later expanded and extended in the Haiti HOPE II act which extended the preferences for 10 years, expanded coverage of duty-free treatment to more apparel products, and simplified the rules for producers and importers.
Importantly, HOPE II also amended the eligibility requirements by requiring Haiti to create a new independent labor office and establish a third party labor monitoring program overseen by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The program established by Congress provides for independent monitors to publicly report on labor conditions in Haitian garment factories and to help Haitian apparel factories meet core international labor standards, Haitian labor laws, and occupational health and safety rules. The special compliance program applies only to those firms that seek the trade benefits. ILAB oversees and administers aspects of these programs, including by providing technical assistance and identifying factories that are substantially non-compliant with eligibility criteria.
The earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010 caused massive disruptions in society and the Haitian economy. The U.S. Congress responded to the devastation by further extending and expanding the HOPE programs through passage of the Haiti Economic Lift Program (HELP) Act of 2010. The HELP Act made a number of major changes to the trade preferences including extending the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) and the HOPE Act through September 30, 2020. For more information on the Haiti HOPE programs and labor conditions, see USTR's 2013 report to Congress.
If an organization or individual believes a country with which the United States has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is not meeting its labor commitments under its FTA, it can file a complaint, or "submission," with the United States Department of Labor. The US Labor Department's Office of Trade and Labor Affairs receives and evaluates submissions based on our procedural guidelines. The guidelines explain what a submission should include, how we determine whether a submission should be accepted for a formal review, and the steps we take once we begin the review. If we accept a submission for review, the Office of Trade and Labor Affairs conducts a review of the submission's allegations, often asking the other country's government questions about the submission, labor laws, and labor inspection procedures, as well as visiting the country to interview workers, managers, and government officials. The guidelines for the submission process are available in English, Spanish, Arabic and French. The review ultimately leads to a public report, which can trigger other steps under the relevant FTA labor chapter.