TODAY |

Company making Costco pyjamas flagged for forced labour

The Trump Administration is blocking shipments from a Chinese company making baby pyjamas sold at Costco warehouses, after the foreign manufacturer was accused of forcing ethnic minorities locked in an internment camp to sew clothes against their will.

The government is also blocking rubber gloves sold by industry leader Ansell whose customers include surgeons, mechanics and scientists around the US, accusing a Malaysian manufacturer of staffing its factories with migrants from Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries who went into crushing debt from paying exorbitant recruitment fees.

Costco is looking at opening its first New Zealand location in north-west Auckland's Westgate in 2021.

Imports of bone charcoal from Brazil that firms like Plymouth Technology and ResinTech Inc. used to remove contaminants in US water systems, diamonds from Zimbabwe and gold from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, were stopped as well.

US Customs and Border Protection on October 1 slapped rare detention orders on goods imported from an unprecedented five countries in one day based on allegations that people producing those items might be children, or adults subjected to forced labour.

The orders are used to hold shipping containers at the US ports of entry until the agency can investigate the claims of wrongdoing.

CBP did not release information about the companies that were importing the goods covered by last week's detention orders.

But The Associated Press tracked items to several buyers, including Costco and the US subsidiary of Ansell, an Australian protective gloves manufacturer. The companies said they were not aware that their products were being made with forced labour.

Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said the orders, the most issued in a single day, "shows that if we suspect a product is made using forced labour, we'll take that product off U.S. shelves."

Custom's action last week is sending ripples globally, with exporters now on notice to improve labour conditions.

Domestically, some US importers were shaken to learn their products might have been made by people forced to work against their will or under threat of punishment.

Human rights experts warn as many as 25 million people globally are victims of forced labour.

In recent years, investigations by media organisations and advocacy groups have tracked products suspected of being made by forced labour as they travel from manufacturers, through brokers and dealers, into the hands of American consumers.

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The US-based wholesale retailer is coming to Auckland in 2021. Source: Seven Sharp