KUALA LUMPUR  The Human Resources (HR) Ministry needs a year to deal with the issue of six Malaysian companies that are still subject to the Withhold Release Orders (WROs) by the US Customs and Borders Protection (US CBP).

Deputy Minister Datuk Awang Hashim said the ministry remains actively engaged in dealings with all relevant parties including the US CBP towards dropping the orders imposed upon the companies.

Over the past two years, eight Malaysian companies have been subject to WROs by the US CBP, noted the Pendang member of Parliament (MP). These companies comprise producers of rubber gloves and palm oil products.

Two of these eight companies were released from the order in 2021 after taking preventive measures and appropriate actions to overcome this matter. These include proving that the products made, produced, or manufactured do not involve any forced labour practices.

“Based on the criteria [that had to be met] by the two companies involved [before] they are immediately [removed] from the list, we will use similar methods for the [remaining] listed companies, which will take us about a year to check and investigate what has not yet been fulfilled.

“As for the timeline, we ask you to be patient [as we need] a year from now to get the results,” he said in Parliament on Thursday (July 28).

He was answering a supplementary question from R. Sivarasa (PH-Sungai Buloh) regarding the expected time for the government to resolve the problems of Malaysian companies subject to WRO.

Responding to Sivarasa’s original question asking the ministry to reveal the name of the companies subjected to the WROs, Awang however did not provide the details because it was feared it would affect the stock market and the national economy.

“If the Honourable [MP] insists on the list of the companies, I will give it in writing. It cannot be disclosed here,” added Awang.

A quick check on the US CBP’s website by theedgemarkets.com showed a total of six Malaysian entities, namely from the plantation and glove sectors, have been slapped with WROs, with their status showing as “active” respectively.

The six entities are FGV Holdings Bhd, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, Smart Glove, Brightway Group, YTY Group, as well as Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, Maxwell Glove Manufacturing Bhd and Supermax Glove Manufacturing; Smart Glove (collectively).

A WRO is issued when the US CBP has reasonable evidence of the use of forced labour in the manufacturing or production of goods entering the US supply chain, and allows the agency to detain the products in question, unless the importers can prove the absence of forced labour in the products’ supply chain.

Meanwhile, Awang said a joint working group committee between Malaysia and the United States has been proposed following a trip to Washington by HR Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan in May this year to ensure good relations between the two countries, especially in order to ensure that the issue of forced labour can be dealt with in an orderly manner.

“This proposal was welcomed and agreed by the US CBP, with the committee scheduled to meet every three months.

“The first meeting will be held in August 2022 virtually while the second meeting has been planned to be organised physically in Kuala Lumpur in December this year,” he said.