Reshoring and Slavery

U.S. companies are not allowed to employ slave labor even when their factories are located outside of the United States. Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 forbids importing any goods produced with forced labor, including forced or indentured child labor.

You’d think this law would be inspired by the fact that slavery and child labor are illegal in the United States and also morally wrong. In fact, according to the Congressional Research Service, it was actually to make sure that American manufacturers didn’t have to compete with the cheaper process of using slaves to make goods. Exceptions could be made if the goods were not produced in the U.S.  at all.

This loophole was exploited by offshore manufacturers. If some product was not manufactured in the United States but only overseas, it wouldn’t be refused entry to the United States. In fact, the law was rarely used to prevent goods from entering the U.S. In theory, since it is known that tomatoes from Mexico are often produced with forced labor, anyone shipping tomatoes from Mexico to the United States should have to prove that their particular tomatoes were not produced with slave or child labor.

In practice, the law has only been used occasionally — sometimes less than once a year. There are lists of products that are likely to be produced with forced labor when they come from particular locations. These include tomatoes from Mexico, cotton from Pakistan, and rugs from Iran.  But overall, enforcement of these rules seems to be relatively lax.


Reshoring provides at least a step in the right direction. While forced labor does exist in the United States, it is less common here than in some other countries. It is also less common in manufacturing than in industries like domestic service, restaurants and hospitality, and agriculture. When there are more products produced in the United States, there are fewer loopholes allowing the products of forced labor to be sold in the United States.

Automation is obviously a better alternative to high labor costs than forced labor. Where your automation systems rely on Indramat drive and control we can help you keep everything in tip-top shape. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.