Center for American Progress

Strengthen Enforcement of Memorandum of Understanding on Prison Labor Imports
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Strengthen Enforcement of Memorandum of Understanding on Prison Labor Imports

Enforcement of the Memorandum of Understanding should be revivified through such means as requiring U.S. importers to certify that goods were not made with Chinese prison labor and blocking imports from facilities where U.S. inspectors were not allowed access.

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In 1992, the United States and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding prohibiting trade in prison labor products and authorizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to inspect Chinese prison facilities to verify that Chinese prisoners were not making products for import into the United States. In general, however, this agreement has not been enforced because the U.S. immigration service has insufficient resources and authority in China to conduct the necessary inspections and because China has delayed or obstructed U.S. requests for investigations. As a result, at least 72 different products or product categories continue to be made in the prison camps, including railway and auto parts, garments, microwave ovens and carpets, to name just a few.

Enforcement of the MOU should be revivified through such means as requiring U.S. importers to certify that goods were not made with prison labor and blocking imports from facilities where U.S. inspectors were not allowed access. If that does not happen successfully within one year, then the MOU should be modified or even be revoked in order that it not provide false diplomatic cover for China.

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