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The US Congress is finally working to ban these common goods made by slaves and children

Laali, 11, holds a bloom of cotton plucked from a plant while working with her family in a field in Meeran Pur village, north of Karachi September 25, 2014.
Reuters/Akhtar Soomro
Cotton, too.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Shrimp from Thailand, pornography from the Philippines and coffee from Colombia could all soon face new bans on entering the US.

A wide-ranging bill passed by the US Congress yesterday (Feb. 11) includes a new provision that would finally prevent imports of goods made by child or forced labor, the Associated Press reports. According to the US Bureau of International Labor Affairs, a list of 350 common products from countries around the world are made with forced and child labor, at least in some instances.

Since 1930, a loophole in US law has allowed goods produced under such conditions to come into the US, if consumers couldn’t get them otherwise. The new bill, which among other things would ban taxing access to the internet, would close it.

“It’s an outrage this loophole persisted for so long,” Sen. Ron Wyden told the AP. “No product made by people held against their will, or by children, should ever be imported to the United States.”

The bill heads to US president Obama’s desk this week, and the White House has said he will sign it. But enforcing the change could be difficult. US Customs and Border Protection don’t always know how an item was produced when it arrives at the US border. According to the AP, Homeland Security Investigation agents in 46 countries would be responsible for researching illegal trade, but labyrinthine international supply chains can make it difficult to trace a product’s provenance. Critics believe the provision is more about image than real change.

The product categories are broad—not all coffee from Colombia would be banned, for example, and not all named products are imported by the US. But some items on the list are undoubtedly made under inhumane conditions and distributed for purchase here, such as the shrimp in supermarkets and restaurants that an AP investigation last year traced to slave labor in Thailand. Some items, such as cotton, sugarcane, coffee, and clothing, turn up on the list more frequently than others.

Here are some of the goods on the list that have been linked to forced or child labor:

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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