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Top Glove allowed to restart US sales after passing checks on forced labor

<i>Samsul Said/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>An employee monitors latex gloves on hand-shaped molds moving along an automated production line at a Top Glove factory in Selangor
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Samsul Said/Bloomberg/Getty Images
An employee monitors latex gloves on hand-shaped molds moving along an automated production line at a Top Glove factory in Selangor

By Michelle Toh, CNN Business

The United States has lifted an import ban on the world’s largest glove maker after concluding that its products are no longer being produced using forced labor.

In an announcement Friday, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said that it had cleared Top Glove, a Malaysian company, after new findings in its investigation of the rubber glove manufacturer’s workplace.

US port officials were ordered to seize Top Glove imports in March, when CBP said that a months-long probe had found “sufficient information” that the supplier was using forced labor to produce disposable gloves.

A document published on the US government’s Federal Register said officials had found evidence that certain disposable gloves had been “produced, or manufactured in Malaysia by Top Glove Corporation Bhd with the use of convict, forced or indentured labor.”

Those issues have now been addressed, according to the law enforcement agency.

“Since that time, Top Glove has provided additional information to CBP, which CBP believes establishes by satisfactory evidence that the subject disposable gloves are no longer mined, produced, or manufactured in any part with forced labor,” the department said in a statement this week.

Top Glove shares rose as much as 10% in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, before paring some gains.

In a statement, the company said that it wished to “express its utmost appreciation to CBP for its responsiveness in modification of the finding.”

“Top Glove remains committed to the health, safety and well being of its people,” it added.

Top Glove said in April that it had “resolved” issues related to forced labor, such as the retention of identity documents, the intimidation of workers, and physical and sexual violence.

The company said that it had used standards issued by the International Labour Organization as guidelines, and that an independent consultant in the United Kingdom had verified its progress.

Top Glove, which employs some 22,000 people and churns out about 100 billion gloves a year, is one of Malaysia’s best known companies. The firm has benefited enormously from the demand for gloves during the coronavirus pandemic, alongside its local rivals.

This heightened demand has put a spotlight on how the suppliers treat their workers, particularly foreign staff recruited from neighboring countries.

This spring, labor rights activist Andy Hall called the CBP decision to seize imports from Top Glove “a wake-up call” for the rest of Malaysia’s rubber gloves industry.

“Much more needs to be done to combat the systemic forced labor of foreign workers that remains endemic in factories across Malaysia,” he said at the time.

— Diksha Madhok contributed to this report.

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