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April 13, 2022

Action urged on enforcing import ban of Uyghur forced labour goods

A new report is urging the swift passage and enactment of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ensure goods, which are said to be tainted by the forced labour of oppressed minorities in China, are not imported into the US.

By Hannah Abdulla

The most recent annual report from The Congressional-Executive Commission on China which had been drafted ahead of the signing of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) suggests international businesses continue to be at risk of complicity in the Chinese government’s increased use of forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The report argues US supply chains and businesses cannot be complicit in modern slavery. “American consumers must not be put in the position of inadvertently purchasing the products of slave labour,” it reads.

Further, it argues firms cannot rely on factory audits to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour in the XUAR region.

Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg summarise the recommendations the report makes specifically with regard to forced labour for Congress and administration officials:

  • Engage US companies on human rights issues in China and encourage them to cease doing business with firms in the XUAR until the Chinese government ends forced labour and other practices and changes their approach to conducting due diligence in the country moving beyond codes of conduct and third-party factory audits which are said to be unreliable due to fraudulent practices.
  • Consider legislation requiring greater supply chain transparency so that forced labour and other abuses are not hidden by layers of subcontractors and suppliers.
  • US CBP should clarify guidelines so that companies importing to the US can provide adequate evidence that their goods are not produced in whole or in part with forced labour from the XUAR.
  • Increase appropriations for CBP’s forced labour enforcement, including by expanding the existing forensic verification of origin testing technology, which can identify trace amounts of cotton and other products and link them to the XUAR.
  • Direct CBP to examine imports of all goods made in whole or in part in the XUAR, or by workers from the XUAR, and determine whether such imports violate the prohibition on imports of goods made with forced labour.
  • Work with other governments and legislatures to encourage import bans on products made in whole or in part in the XUAR or in factories that recruit workers from the XUAR – enact legislation that would create incentives to expand solar technology supply chains in the US to eliminate reliance on products or inputs made with forced labour.

Earlier this month The Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy, which comprises several Vietnamese organisations, claimed six out of 53 international intermediary manufacturers that have purchased unfinished cotton goods from five leading Chinese manufacturers sourcing Xinjiang cotton, are from Vietnam.

It urged US Customs & Border Protection to pay closer attention to cotton-based goods being imported from Vietnam alleging the country is importing Xinjiang cotton to help China bypass sanctions imposed as part of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

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