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G7 trade ministers agree to work toward eliminating forced labor with China in mind

G7 trade ministers agree to work toward eliminating forced labor with China in mind

SUNDAY, October 24, 2021

Trade ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations agreed to cooperate in eliminating forced labor from international supply chains at a meeting held in London on Friday, marking the first time the G7 has presented a concrete policy to eliminate such practices.

Although the statement adopted by the ministers did not specifically name any country, China’s oppression of the Uighur ethnic minority was clearly in the crosshairs.

According to the statement, the G7 trade ministers share concerns regarding the “use of all forms of forced labor in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities.”

About 25 million people are said to be victims of forced labor worldwide. The statement called on “all countries, multilateral institutions and businesses to work together, including with survivors of forced labor, to eradicate forced labor from global supply chains.”

The ministers also said the implementation of trade policies such as import and export restrictions would be an important tool in eliminating forced labor.

To make it easier for companies to prove that they are not involved in human rights violations, the G7 will promote the development of common guidelines for sharing data on forced labor by the United Nations and other international organizations.

“We shared serious concerns about forced labor and other issues against minority groups. We need to take coordinated action in the G7,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda said after participating in the meeting online from Tokyo.

The ministers also discussed cross-border data flows, sharing the view that companies should not be required to store data on local servers or disclose source code, eying China, which manages and hoards data under government control.