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         Parliament and Council agree to ban products made with forced labour from EU market

          On 4 March, the EP and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the Regulation prohibiting products made with forced labour to be made available in or exported from the EU. Although Germany and France already have legislation on their statute book imposing due diligence obligations on companies that include human rights, this will be the first time specific legislation on forced labour is adopted at EU or Member State level.

          The deal makes the Commission responsible for investigating products coming from outside the EU, while Member States will be in charge of products made domestically. The Commission will establish a database containing information about the risks of forced labour, including a list of specific products and a list of specific economic sectors in geographical areas where there is the risk of State-imposed forced labour. The last being a specific demand of the EP.  Here, importers and exporters trading in high-risk products will need to submit extra information, mostly related to manufacturers and the suppliers. To assist economic operators to comply with the Regulation, the Commission will set out guidelines including best practices for ending forced labour and/or providing remediation.

          Among the changes made to the Commission Proposal, France managed to include a clause to withhold – rather than destroy – goods considered of strategic or critical importance until the company can demonstrate that it has eliminated forced labour from its supply chains. This was criticised by shadow rapporteur Raphaël Glucksmann (S&D, France) as he argued it would allow for a less harsh approach with respect to solar panels produced in China’s Xinjiang – a region that will be listed as high-risk by the Commission. 

          The agreement now needs to be endorsed and formally adopted by both Council and EP. However, the current (pre-)electoral mood could derail the process. While approval in the EP is almost certain, Council’s approval, as with the CSDDD, cannot be taken for granted with fashionable concerns against burdening EU business with additional red tape.