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CBP Slaps WRO on Second Glove Maker

A second Malaysian glove maker has had its U.S.-bound shipments blocked.

Effective Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at all U.S. ports of entry will detain disposable gloves produced by Supermax Corporation Bhd.’s wholly-owned subsidiaries, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd., Maxwell Glove Manufacturing Bhd. and Supermax Glove Manufacturing.

That’s because CBP issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) against Supermax Corporation and its subsidiaries based on information that reasonably indicates their use of forced labor in manufacturing operations. CBP identified 10 of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) indicators of forced labor during its investigation and confirmed that the facilities in question are based in Malaysia, where Top Glove produced similar products that were similarly detained under a ban that CBP later revoked.

“With this Withhold Release Order, the Biden-Harris administration continues to make clear that products made in whole or in part by forced labor will not be allowed into the United States,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said. “DHS will continue to set an international standard for the elimination of the deplorable practice of forced labor. We will remove it from American supply chains.”

Exploitation pervades Malaysia’s manufacturing sector. Transparentem recently delved into allegations of labor exploitation faced by migrant workers who make clothing for Bonobos, Brooks Brothers and L.L. Bean in factories in Malaysia. In 2019, the organization flagged Imperial Garments and Pen Apparel, both owned by Hong Kong manufacturer TAL Apparel, for demonstrating signs of issues that the International Labour Organization considers indicators of forced labor, including deception, intimidation, abusive living conditions and debt bondage.

A U.S. federal statute prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments have the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.

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“This Withhold Release Order will help protect vulnerable workers,” said Troy Miller, CBP acting commissioner. “CBP is a global leader in forced labor enforcement, and we will continue to exclude products made by modern slavery from entering into the United States.”

AnnMarie R. Highsmith, CBP Office of Trade executive assistant commissioner, said with 10 of the 11 forced labor indicators identified during the course of its investigation, CBP has sufficient evidence to conclude that Supermax Corporation Bhd. and its subsidiaries produce gloves in violation of U.S. trade law.

“Until the manufacturers can prove their manufacturing processes are free of forced labor, their goods are not welcome here,” Highsmith said.

In Fiscal Year 2021, CBP issued seven WROs and two forced labor findings. The ILO estimates that 25 million workers suffer under conditions of forced labor worldwide. Foreign companies exploit forced labor to sell goods below market value. This exposes vulnerable populations to inhumane working conditions like physical and sexual violence, isolation, restriction of movement, withholding of wages, excessive overtime, and more. It also hurts law-abiding businesses, threatens American jobs, and exposes consumers to unwittingly supporting unethical business practices.

According to the company’s website, Supermax currently exports to some 160 countries worldwide in the regions of America, Europe, Middle East, Asia and the South Pacific. Supermax Group produces up to 24 billion pieces of gloves per year. The company has 11 manufacturing plants based in Malaysia.

After seizing multiple shipments from nitrile disposable glove maker Top Glove due to active forced labor findings at the company’s Malaysia factories, in May CBP modified its mandate banning the imports, permitting the company to resume importing its disposable gloves.

In response to the WRO, Top Glove issued more than $30 million in remediation payments to workers, while improving labor and living conditions at its facilities.