G-7 trade ministers agree to end forced labor policy

G-7 trade ministers agree to end forced labor policy

TOKYO LONDON - Ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies agreed Friday to seek to eliminate forced labor from global supply chains, taking a position seen as in line with Western criticism of Uyghur Muslims.

The joint statement from the G-7 trade meeting in London marks the first time the group has endorsed import restrictions and other trade policy tools to stop forced labor.

The ministers voiced concern about states imposing forced labor on vulnerable groups. While not calling out China by name, the statement follows months of Chinese denunciation and sanctions imposed on Western officials over alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

The group also seeks to promote due diligence by companies in order to identify and prevent human rights violations within supply chains.

The meeting of G-7 trade ministers on Friday had a mix of online and in-person participation. Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Koichi Hagiuda, attended virtually and proposed an international framework to increase predictability and transparency for companies seeking to demonstrate that their supply chains are free of forced labor.

The U.S. has banned imports of apparel and other items suspected of being made through forced labor imposed on Uyghurs.

Japan, meanwhile, has no laws or regulations to control imports and exports based only on human rights factors. Japanese companies have also been slow to take a rigorous approach to due diligence on human rights.

In addition, the G-7 ministers adopted digital trade principles to guide members on promoting the free transfer of data across borders.

Ministers shared concerns about multinationals being forced to keep servers in countries they operate in and called for a ban on forced disclosures of source codes.