The proposed law would require brands importing goods from Xinjiang to prove they have not been made using forced labour

The proposed law would require brands importing goods from Xinjiang to prove they have not been made using forced labour

US lawmakers have proposed legislation that will ban goods made with forced labour in China's Xinjiang region from entering the country.

The so-called Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act creates a "rebuttable presumption" that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour. The bill would therefore require importers to obtain certification from US Customs and Border Protection to confirm products were not produced using forced labour by minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

"Any corporations seeking to import goods produced in Xinjiang must demonstrate through "clear and convincing" evidence that there was no forced labour in their supply chains," according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

"Any US or international company with operations in Xinjiang or working with the Xinjiang government to source labour to other parts of China should reconsider whether they want to be producing products in a region where there is evidence crimes against humanity are being committed," says representative James McGovern. "It is long past time for companies to reassess their operations and supply chains in Xinjiang and find alternatives that do not exploit and violate individuals' human rights."

Senator Marco Rubio adds: "For far too long the Chinese Communist Party has gotten away with the systematic use of forced labour by Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. While the US Government should take all precautionary measures to ensure that goods made in the XUAR don't enter our market, companies have a moral duty and responsibility to prove that their sourced products have been produced without forced labour."

The commission first raised its concerns in November, urging the CBP to take aggressive action by investigating and blocking goods made with forced labour in Xinjiang. 

Earlier this year it called on US President Donald Trump and members of Congress to impose trade sanctions on China over the ongoing human rights situation in the region. 

Shortly after, the US Department of Homeland Security published its first five-year strategy to prevent the import of goods produced with forced labour, which aims to combat the growing threat of human trafficking, the import of goods produced with forced labour, and child sexual exploitation by focusing on preventing exploitative crimes, protecting victims, investigating and prosecuting perpetrators, and enabling the DHS to combat the illicit activities.

Yesterday's proposal from the commission follows a call from the clothing and footwear industry for the US government to help find a solution that protects the right of workers and the integrity of global supply chains.

A coalition of industry trade bodies including the AAFA, NRF, RILA, FDRA and the USFIA said it was "deeply concerned" by the reports of forced labour and the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority workers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and elsewhere in China. 

"The reported situation is of a scale, scope, and complexity that is unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains."

The Fair Labor Association also voiced its concerns on the matter after a report was released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute which alleged more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017-19 to work in factories including ones making garments and footwear. It directly named a number of apparel and footwear brands with links to factories directly or indirectly involved in the employment of forced labour.

The FLA said forced labour in Xinjiang is having a negative impact on manufacturing in China and other parts of Asia because cotton and other raw materials are sourced from this region.

According to public reports, companies suspected of sourcing from suppliers who are thought to use forced labour include Adidas, Calvin Klein, Esquel Group, Esprit, H&M, Nike, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger.