PUTRAJAYA: A working committee comprising the US Department of Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) and Malaysia will be set up to address the issue of forced labour, says Datuk Seri M. Saravanan.

The Human Resources Minister, in a statement, said the focus of the committee included exchanging information along with formulating policies on combating forced labour.

He added that the committee would meet every month.

He said the US CBP was also expected to undertake a working visit to Malaysia at the end of this month and hold a workshop with the country’s industry players.

The workshop will shed light on matters related to elements of forced labour that should be avoided by industry players so that their products will not be banned from entering the US market, said Saravanan, who is on a working visit to Washington DC.

Saravanan said the working visit had opened up opportunities for bilateral cooperation in curbing forced labour besides being a platform for the United States to better understand the challenges faced by Malaysia.

“The United States deeply appreciates the Malaysian government’s efforts and is ready to continue its strategic cooperation in combating forced labour,” he said, Bernama reported.

According to Saravanan, he met with US CBP executive assistant commissioner AnnMarie Highsmith and the United States Department of Labour (US DOL) deputy undersecretary for international affairs Thea Lee.

He said he had shared the initiatives of the Human Resources Ministry in addressing nearly all forced labour indicators listed by the International Labour Organisation such as retention of identity documents, excessive overtime and withholding of wages.

Regarding the cooperation with the US DOL, Saravanan said the department had agreed to share its expertise in technology transfer, capability-building and apprentice programmes.

He said the department also suggested that Malaysia provide exposure to workers on the importance of trade unions, adding that this is in line with the amendments to the Trade Unions Act 1959 which will be tabled in Parliament in July.