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US Bans Vietnamese Garments Made By Child Labor

A ban on the purchase of garments made in Vietnam has been imposed by the US government on all federal agencies as a result of disclosures that the apparel may be made by forced or indentured child labor.

In January, two officials from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) visited Vietnam to determine the extent of forced or indentured child labor in their garment industry.

Conferring with government officials, unions and international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the  representatives developed a dark picture of Vietnam’s child labor law violations.

Most child labor is employed in small, unregistered factories, according to the information provided by the various sources the ILAB officials interviewed.

It was determined that child labor abuses were widespread, occurring in more than just isolated cases.

The systematic monitoring of child labor is conducted mainly in the large, registered factories, according to comments from the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, the Invalids and Social Affairs and the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association.  Small, unregistered factories and home-based production shops are not monitored.

In a statement reporting its evidence of child labor abuses, the ILAB said, “In many countries, laws, policies and programs that are effective for registered factories are less effective at reaching children and other exploited workers in unregistered, more hidden work settings, and this appears to be the case in Vietnam’s garment industry.”

Vietnam is currently a participant in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations on an agreement with ten other countries concerning trade, tariffs and other commercial, customs, labor, technological and social issues. An agreement on these issues is expected to be concluded by the end of this year.

About 55 percent of Vietnam’s garment and textile exports was expected to go to the US on the completion of the TPP pact.  No assessment has yet been made, however, on the financial impact of the US federal agency ban on buying Vietnamese garments.