Congress Gives Bipartisan Support To Uyghur Forced Labor Law

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which bans all imports from China’s Xinjiang province, where the government has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, under the “rebuttable presumption,“ that all goods from the area are produced with forced labor. Imports from Xinjiang will only be allowed into the U.S. if the U.S. government has “clear and convincing evidence” that forced labor was not part of their production.

“This is a significant development that Congress has been working on for nearly three years,” says Maurice Norris, PPAI public affairs manager. “When this legislation is signed, it will make official an already-existing movement toward promotional products companies being expected to provide ‘dirt-to-shirt’ information on your products, although this bill is not exclusively applicable to apparel. This means industry companies will have to delve deeper into your supply chains than ever before.”

Last week, the House passed an earlier version of the bill, but it did not move forward in the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) hashed out the compromise agreement that passed on Tuesday and is expected to pass the Senate this week. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has indicated that President Biden will sign it.

At a press brief, Psaki said, “We agree with Congress that action can and must be taken to hold the People’s Republic of China accountable for genocide and human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang. … The Administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy.”

There has been bipartisan support within the U.S. government to respond to the Chinese government’s reported campaign of repression targeting the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minority groups. 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. In January of this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a region-wide Withhold Release Order on products made by slave labor in Xinjiang and began detaining cotton products and tomato products produced in the region at all U.S. ports of entry.

“Knowing where products are manufactured will no longer be sufficient, it will also be critical to go beyond tier-one suppliers and determine where they get their components and raw materials from,” says Norris. “Fortunately, PPAI has been tracking this issue for years and has provided guidance in this area. The Supply Chain Mapping And Traceability webinar offers a wealth of information to help companies dig deeper into their supply chains and avoid the presence of forced labor. PPAI also has resources on its corporate responsibility page to help industry companies navigate the pending requirements.”

filed under December 2021
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