U.S. and Japanese governments establish task force to promote human rights in supply chains
On January 6 in Washington, DC, the respective governments of Japan and the United States agreed to establish a task force to eliminate human rights abuses such as forced labor and child labor in corporate supply chains, and to promote the protection of rights of international workers.
This agreement is outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the U.S.–Japan Task Force on the Promotion of Human Rights and International Labor Standards in Supply Chains, which was confirmed and signed by U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura during his visit to the United States.
The Task Force will share information on guidance, best practices, laws, regulations, and policies to promote the protection of human rights and international labor standards. It will also promote dialogue with stakeholders, including businesses, labor organizations, and civil society organizations. That dialogue will include multi-stakeholder engagement and input on best practices for due diligence on human rights, as well as raising awareness among employers.
The task force will be co-chaired by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the Japanese side and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on the U.S. side, with relevant ministries and agencies of both governments participating as constituent members. The task force will meet every six months in principle, and will discuss the status of implementation of the MOU at these meetings annually.
Regarding the task force, Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Nishimura said in a speech in the United States on January 5, “The U.S. and Japanese governments have been engaged in ongoing discussions in this field of ‘business and human rights.'”
In a press release, Ambassador Tai referred to the Guidelines on Respecting Human Rights in Responsible Supply Chains (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), which the Japanese government formulated in September 2022, and stated, “The Government of Japan has consistently been a trusted partner in the fight to promote workers’ rights.” She added, “Both governments have made it a priority to discuss ways to cooperate and coordinate on due diligence to combat forced labor.”
With confirmation from both the U.S. and Japanese governments, the task force will commence its work this year. In the future, companies and labor unions will be expected to stay mindful of this task force and put in place robust measures, including the implementation of human rights due diligence, to prevent the occurrence of human rights violations such as forced labor and child labor in their supply chains.