The United States removes Uzbek cotton from the list of products requiring federal contractor certification
According to the Embassy of Uzbekistan in the United States, on 25 March 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor took a final determination to revise the list required by Executive Order No.13126 (“Prohibition of Acquisition of Products Produced by Forced or Indentured Child Labor”). The Departments of Labor, of State and of Homeland Security proposed removing cotton from Uzbekistan from the E.O. List in a Notice of Initial Determination that was published in the Federal Register on July 31, 2018.
Cotton produced in Uzbekistan was included in this list in 2010.
DOL also notes the existence of multiple, active feedback mechanisms for worker complaints. Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Employment and Labor Relations operates a hotline and the Federation of Trade Unions operates legal clinics in each province to process labor complaints. Two World Bank projects have their own specific feedback mechanisms for participant concerns. In addition, the President of Uzbekistan in 2017 established a general hotline for members of the public to raise issues with the Uzbek government.
“After a thorough review of the comments received and information available, the Departments have determined that the use of forced child labor in the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan has been significantly reduced to isolated incidents. As a result, this product no longer meets the criteria for inclusion in the Executive Order List”, - summarized in the determination of the Department of Labor.
The decision of the U.S. Government to remove cotton from this list allows any U.S. government agency to purchase this product without requiring its certification. In addition, according to representatives of the U.S. Department of Labor, the removal of Uzbek cotton from this list will provide an opportunity for private American companies to enter into business relations with suppliers from Uzbekistan without fear of discrediting their business reputation. Thus, cotton producers of Uzbekistan open up new prospects for full-fledged access to U.S. markets.
Earlier, in September last year, the U.S. Department of Labor removed Uzbek cotton from the “List of goods produced using child labor”.
These decisions testify to the recognition by the United States of measures taken in the country to improve the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, as well as the systematic removal of all previously introduced restrictions.