by Mara Lee, International Trade Today

NEW YORK -- The chair of the committee that puts together the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act entity list told an audience from the apparel industry that the process is no "rubber stamp," and is instead a "meaningful process" involving investigations by agencies on the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force.

After one of the federal agencies nominates a company for the list, all the agencies start examining the evidence. Robert Silvers, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security and FLETF chair, said they may ask: "'Can we see if we can find more evidence on particular points?"'

Silvers said that for the first year, the government was establishing the procedures for how to name entities to the list, but since the summer, they've added new companies nearly every month. "We are at a steady cadence of adding new companies to that list," he said. But, he added, "There's more work to do. We do need more resources from Congress to help us do it."

He said UFLPA didn't include any funding for the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, but they moved workers to the team, and they just added new staff in recent days.

Silvers was speaking at the U.S. Fashion Industry Association's annual conference, and USFIA President Julia Hughes told him she is asked again and again -- especially from smaller companies -- "how can we get more ... data on the entity list so we know who are the suspicious characters or the bad guys" in our supply chain?

Silvers agreed that the entity list is important to give companies notice of which suppliers to avoid.

Overall, he argued, CBP has been "speedy, strong and surgical in our implementation" of UFLPA. He said that CBP has been "taking a very targeted, risk-based approach of targeting goods that we have suspicions about but allowing the overwhelming majority of trade to come in." He said the agency doesn't forget that trade facilitation is one of its missions, too. "So we think we found a very appropriate balance and approach there."

However, he said, "It's constantly being fine-tuned." CBP is constantly getting market intelligence, it's constantly trying new technology to aid their risk assessments, and he said that the industry's experimentation with supply chain mapping technologies is also a positive development. He said he thinks eventually CBP and firms will coalesce around the same software solutions, so they are agreeing on the same fact patterns.

He said the agency wants to go deeper into technology in 2024, both in supply chain mapping and in DNA testing. He said CBP is trying to "consistently add more detail" to its UFLPA enforcement dashboard, and is asking itself:
"Can we break these categories out further?"

The categories are quite broad; for instance, one is "electronics."