CBP Prohibits Imported Cotton, Tomato Products From China’s Xinjiang Region

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a region-wide Withhold Release Order (WRO) on products made by slave labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Effective January 13 at all U.S. ports of entry, CBP will detain cotton products and tomato products produced in the region.

CBP issued the WRO against these products based on information that reasonably indicates the use of detainee or prison labor and situations of forced labor. The agency identified the following forced labor indicators through the course of its investigation: debt bondage, restriction of movement, isolation, intimidation and threats, withholding of wages, and abusive living and working conditions.

“DHS will not tolerate forced labor of any kind in U.S. supply chains,” says Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. “We will continue to protect the American people and investigate credible allegations of forced labor, we will prevent goods made by forced labor from entering our country, and we demand the Chinese close their camps and stop their human rights violations.”

CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan adds, “CBP will not tolerate the Chinese government’s exploitation of modern slavery to import goods into the United States below fair market value. Imports made on the cheap by using forced labor hurt American businesses that respect human rights and also expose unsuspecting consumers to unethical purchases.”

The WRO on cotton and tomato products originating in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region applies to cotton and tomatoes grown in that region and to all products made in whole or in part using this cotton or these tomatoes, regardless of where the downstream products are produced. These products include apparel, textiles, tomato seeds, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and other goods made with cotton and tomatoes. Importers are responsible for ensuring the products they are attempting to import do not exploit forced labor at any point in their supply chain, including the production or harvesting of the raw material.

In July 2020, the U.S. Government issued an advisory to caution businesses about the reputational, financial and legal risks of forced labor in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is reportedly executing a campaign of repression targeting the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minority groups. On December 2, 2020, CBP announced the issuance of a WRO on cotton and cotton products originating from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and paramilitary organization subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party.

This is the fourth WRO that CBP has issued since the beginning of fiscal year 2021, and the second on products originating in Xinjiang. Eight of the 13 WRO that CBP issued in FY2020 were on goods made by forced labor in China. All WROs are publicly available and listed by country on CBP’s Forced Labor WROs and Findings webpage.

Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments have the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.

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