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Obama Closes Loophole On Forced Labor Goods Imports

Using child labor to harvest cotton is rampant in Uzbekistan. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has closed a legal loophole that had allowed the import of goods produced by forced or child labor, with potential consequences for cotton exports from Central Asian markets.

The move by Obama on February 24 to eliminate the so-called consumptive demand exception was hailed by rights groups, but it was uncertain whether U.S. customs officials would move to enforce the ban as it relates to cotton from Uzbekistan.

Use of child labor to harvest cotton in the Central Asian nation is rampant, and activists have long campaigned to force the authoritarian government to clamp down on the practice.

Brian Campbell, legal adviser for a coalition known as the Cotton Campaign, told RFE/RL that the law will now apply to any good made with Uzbek cotton even if a similar product isn’t produced in the United States.

He said the law also opens the door for victims of forced labor to press U.S. customs officials to better enforce trade law.