LONDON, Oct 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The European
Union should require companies to publicly disclose the origin
of all products imported and sold within the 28-nation bloc to
help stamp out labour abuses, an anti-slavery activist said on
The data should be uploaded in a common database accessible
by consumers, allowing them to make informed decisions on what
they buy, British rights activist Andy Hall of the Migrant
Worker Rights Network said.
He urged EU lawmakers to follow the United States' efforts
to enhance transparency in the supply chain.
"In the U.S. ...we can get a whole printout from which
company (a product) came from, which port it came into, which
port it was shipped from, where the goods have been processed,
how they have been supplied how they ended up on the supermarket
shelf," Hall said.
"In the EU there is absolutely nothing," he told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview from Strasbourg
where he is due to meet European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia
Malmstrom on Thursday to discuss the idea.
"We need that information so that we can make the supply
chain more transparent," Hall said.
From cosmetics and clothes to shrimp and smartphones, the
supply chain for most products can be complex with multiple
layers - whether in sourcing the raw materials or creating the
final product - making it hard to identify exploitation.
About 21 million people are victims of forced labour around
the world, the United Nations' International Labour Organization
Heidi Hautala, a EU lawmaker of the Greens/European Free
Alliance group, backed Hall's proposal and said she was working
to bring the idea to the European Parliament.
"It could be a very powerful tool for sustainability of
supply chains," she said via telephone from Strasbourg.
A Thai court handed Hall a three-year suspended prison
sentence last month for criminally defaming a fruit wholesaler
that supplies the EU, over a 2013 report he helped author for a
watchdog in a verdict activists denounced as a setback in the
fight against forced labour.
Hall was in Strasbourg ahead of a EU parliament vote on
Thursday on a resolution that is expected to condemn the court's
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Astrid
Zweynert; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate
change. Visit news.trust.org)