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Increased Customs Enforcement Action on Cotton and Tomato Imports from China

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is aggressively enforcing the Withhold Release Order (WRO) on products from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China. CBP issued the region-wide WRO on Jan. 13, based on information that reasonably indicates the use of detainee or prison labor to produce cotton and tomato products in Xinjiang province.

The WRO applies to cotton and tomatoes, as well as downstream products, produced in the XUAR. It also covers products produced outside the XUAR with cotton, tomatoes, and downstream products from the XUAR.

CBP is enforcing the WRO on cotton textile and apparel products through increased inspection and detention of shipments from China. Notably, CBP appears to be presuming that cotton goods from China are subject to the WRO. Importers must prove that the cotton used to produce the products did not come from the XUAR. The proof must establish a chain of custody of the cotton from each step of production from the field to the finished textile or apparel product.

Importers of detained shipments will have an opportunity to export their shipments or establish that they were not produced with forced labor or are not covered by the WRO. For example, an importer must be able to document that a shipment of cotton knit dresses was made in Anhui province using cotton yarn spun in India using cotton grown, cleaned, deseeded, and baled in California. CBP will not permit entry if the importer cannot provide such proof.

Customs is expected to treat shipments of tomato products from China in the same manner.

Importers of cotton and tomato products from China are advised to proactively take steps to document the origin of these products to minimize supply chain delays.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Kevin Williams (kwilliams@clarkhill.com; 312-985-5907), Mark Ludwikowski (mludwikowski@clarkhill.com; 202-640-6680), William Sjoberg (wsjoberg@clarkhill.com; 202-772-0924), Matt Goldstein (mgoldstein@clarkhill.com; 202-550-0400), Courtney Gayle Taylor (cgtaylor@clarkhill.com; 202-552-2350); Dennis Devaney (ddevaney@clarkhill.com); or another member of Clark Hill's International Trade Business Unit.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.