Tariff Act Introduction

Introduction to Section 307

What is Section 307 of the U.S. Tariff Act 1930?

Section 307 of the U.S. Tariff Act (19 U.S.C § 1307) prohibits goods produced using forced labor, convict labor, indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor, from entering the U.S. market.

There are no geographical limits – goods produced, mined, farmed, manufactured, or processed in any part of the world and imported into the United States are covered by this provision.

This prohibition on forced labor can be directed at a specific foreign producer, facility, farm, mine, or even a shipping vessel. In the past, enforcement actions have also been taken against entire industries and regions, although this is rare.

In a nutshell, Section 307 bars goods produced overseas with forced labor from entering U.S. markets. It is a trade remedy against forced labor in global supply chains. Under the provision, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to issue detention orders for goods that are likely produced using forced labor, forced child labor, indentured labor, or convict labor. Once a detention order issues, the goods are prohibited from entering the U.S. market.

History of Section 307

Congress enacted the Tariff Act in 1930.  At the time, U.S. lawmakers sought to protect domestic manufacturers and farmers from unfair competition from low-cost imports made with cheap labor. However, Congress was reluctant to pass a blanket ban on goods. The United States did not have the capacity to produce goods like rubber, coffee, and tea to meet domestic consumption needs. As a result, Congress squeezed in an exception – goods not produced in quantities sufficient to meet domestic demand would be exempt from the provision. This provision, known as the consumptive demand exception, effectively ensured that many goods entered the U.S. market with a free pass, even if made using forced labor. 

This exception made it difficult for CBP to act, even when the agency had concrete evidence of forced labor. The consumptive demand exception left the prohibition on forced labor almost impossible to enforce. Fortunately, after years of dedicated advocacy by civil society groups, in 2015, the Obama Administration finally repealed the ‘consumptive demand exception’ with the passage of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act. With the closing of the loophole, goods at high risk for forced labor such as palm oil, cocoa, and cotton can be subject to a withhold release order, or import block, under Section 307.  Since 2015, U.S. Customs has issued a total of  23 detention orders (as of September 2020), targeting garments, cotton, seafood, hair accessories, rubber gloves, and tobacco.

For more information on the history of the prohibition on forced labor and the consumptive demand exception, please see:

For a list of recent enforcement actions, please visit the “Recent Enforcement Actions” page.

What is the definition of ‘forced labor’ under Section 307 of the Tariff Act?

The definition of forced labor under the U.S. Tariff Act is nearly identical to the ILO Forced Labor Convention No. 29 (1930) definition of forced labor.  Forced labor is any labor that is performed:

a) Involuntarily (without the free and informed consent of the worker) and

b) Under a menace of penalty to the person (physical, psychological or otherwise, including to family members) or property of the worker (such as confiscation of personal documents, withholding of wages, or a threat to confiscate or withhold wages).

The definition of forced labor under the U.S. Tariff Act is nearly identical to the ILO Forced Labor Convention No. 29 (1930) definition on forced labor.  Forced labor is any labor that is performed:

CBP’s enforcement actions under Section 307 track the 11 ILO indicators of forced labor (2012).

What is not covered by the definition of forced labor under the Tariff Act?

Labor that is not the result of force or coercion, or labor obtained through fraud alone – or terrible working conditions alone – will not meet the legal standard under the Tariff Act.

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