The U.S. is set to become the first country to ban the import of all goods made in the Xinjiang or Uyghur Region of China following the passage of a bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
An expansion of existing restrictions
Following the petition submitted in 2020, urging the U.S. to ban Uyghur cotton, which Freedom United signed, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) detaining all imports to the U.S. containing cotton and cotton products made by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).
The Uyghur Forced Labor Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) expands this restriction to encompass all goods made in the Uyghur Region based on the presumption that all such goods must be made with forced labor – unless evidence to the contrary can be produced. Further, the Act calls on the American President to impose sanctions on “any foreign person who ‘knowingly engages'” in forced labor involving minority Muslims.
The bill now heads to U.S. President Biden’s desk for signature.
The final countdown for major corporations
Since its introduction in 2020, the bill was lobbied against heavily by multinational companies that are tied to the Uyghur Region, including Nike and Apple. Both companies were linked to the region by the infamous report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). While both have issued statements of commitment to “ethical” manufacturing or “zero tolerance for forced labor”, neither have taken sufficient measures to ensure their supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labor.
Once the Act is signed into law, the rebuttable presumption goes into effect in 180 days which means companies like Apple and Nike will be forced to make changes in their production lines.
The BBC reports,
“Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, after the bill passed the upper chamber of Congress.
“For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans – every one of us, frankly – unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide.”
Freedom United welcomes the UFLPA
Speaking to the bill’s passage, Executive Director of Freedom United, Joanna Ewart-James stated that, “The passage of this legislation is a gigantic step forward in the fight to end forced labor in the Uyghur Region. And it is the most consequential piece of legislation Congress has passed in years to hold US corporations accountable for profiting from labor rights abuses abroad that I hope to see built upon.”