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CBP Issues Withhold Release Order on Sugar From Dominican Republic

November 28, 2022

On Nov. 23 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) restricting imports of raw sugar and sugar-based products produced in the Dominican Republic by Central Romana Corporation Limited (Central Romana). According to CBP’s press release, the agency issued the WRO based on information that “reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in [Central Romana’s] operations.”

Under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (Section 307), the importation of goods mined, manufactured, or produced “in whole or in part” in any foreign country by convict, forced, or indentured labor, including forced child labor, is forbidden. “Forced labor” under Section 307 is defined as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty for its nonperformance and for which the worker does not offer himself voluntarily.”

CBP enforces this provision through the issuance of WROs and findings. Even though this law has been in place for over 90 years, it has been largely dormant and underutilized until recently.

Enforcement of Section 307: WROs and Findings

Anyone suspecting that an imported good (or one about to be imported) is produced with forced labor can make an allegation to CBP. The agency will initiate an investigation provided that the information received complies with certain requirements. CBP may also start an investigation on its own at any time.

If CBP finds that the information “reasonably but not conclusively” indicates the use of forced labor under Section 307, and the good is being imported or is likely to be imported, the agency will issue a WRO and will detain the goods covered in the order.

To have the goods released, the importer will need to provide evidence showing that they were not produced by forced labor within three months after the date of the importation. If the information is timely submitted and CBP considers the good to be admissible, it will be released. Alternatively, the goods may be exported within three months or before being seized under a finding issued by CBP, whichever occurs first. If CBP determines that the goods are not admissible, the importer must export the goods, or they will be destroyed by CBP.

The statute also provides for CBP to issue a formal finding if the evidence presented confirms that the goods are produced by forced labor. The finding will be published in the Federal Register and the Customs Bulletin. The publication of the finding authorizes CBP officers to seize the goods upon importation. The seized goods will be forfeited to the government if no proof of admissibility was established or timely submitted.

If you have any questions regarding this alert, please contact Mark Ludwikowski (; 202-640-6680); and Kevin Williams (; 312-985-5907); or another member of Clark Hill’s International Trade Business Unit.

Related articles published: How forced labor laws have taken a prominent role in U.S. trade policy

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