UZBEKISTAN: Call for cotton boycott to extend to investors
Activists from Uzbekistan are calling for an extension to an international boycott of Uzbek cotton and textiles as part of efforts to ramp up pressure on the government to end the use of forced and child labour in the country's cotton fields.
Led by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, they say that even though more than 80 international brands and retailers have banned the use of Uzbek cotton, this pressure "remains imperceptible" to the government.
In particular, difficulties in identifying the country of origin of cotton in a huge trade flow make it hard to enforce the ban.
For this reason, the activists now want the boycott of Uzbek cotton and textiles extended to include the companies that use them, as well as foreign investors and partners in Uzbek textile companies. They also want the EU and US to cancel trade benefits for Uzbek textile manufacturers provided by the General System of Preferences (GSP).
According to the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, Korean companies are the largest buyers of Uzbek cotton and textiles, led by Daewoo International and its subsidiaries, Hain Tex and Senas Textile.
Turkey is the second biggest investor, it says, the largest of which is Osborn Textile, owned by Tarmac Group.
According to data from the human rights group, more than 250,000 tons of cotton fibre is sold annually in Uzbekistan to locally-based textile companies backed by foreign capital. Their products, such as yarn and fabrics, are intended for export to global textile and apparel supply chains, from where they enter Europe and the US.
The latest reports this month point to forced mobilisation of students, doctors, teachers and other groups for the cotton harvest.
"The boycott of Uzbek cotton and companies using it should continue until the International Labour Organization (ILO) has completed its monitoring and Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced labour," the human rights group implores.
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