Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States is rallying allies against forced labor as it begins to implement a ban on imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang region, where Washington says Beijing is committing genocide.
- Xinjiang is a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels
- US says importers will have to prove their products are not made with forced labor
- Rights groups and trade associations warn that Xinjiang products could be imported via other countries
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in December.
CBP said it was ready to implement the law’s “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups , are made with forced labor and prohibited from importation, unless proven otherwise.
The agency said a very high standard of proof would be required for importers to benefit from an exception to the law.
“We are bringing together our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to speak out against the atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in calling on the PRC government [People’s Republic of China] immediately end the atrocities and human rights violations,” Blinken said in a statement.
“With our interagency partners, we will continue to engage companies to remind them of US legal obligations.”
Last year, an Australian Senate committee called for the Customs Act to be amended “to prohibit the importation of any goods made in whole or in part by forced labour”.
The ABC contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ask if Australia was considering backing the US decision and taking its own action.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin earlier said in Beijing that the forced labor allegations in Xinjiang were a “big lie concocted by anti-China forces”.
“With this so-called law, the United States is trying to create forced unemployment in Xinjiang and pressure the world to decouple from China,” Wang said.
Beijing initially denied the existence of detention camps, but later admitted to setting up ‘vocational training centers’ needed to fight what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang. .
Last week, CBP released a list of Xinjiang entities suspected of using forced labor, which includes textile, solar-grade polysilicon and electronics companies.
He said he threatened to ban imports from other countries if related supply chains included products or materials from Xinjiang.
The United States, Britain and other countries have called on the United Nations’ International Labor Organization to set up a mission to investigate allegations of labor abuses in Xinjiang.
Human rights groups and trade associations that support US domestic producers have warned that goods from Xinjiang could end up in solar imports from other countries, given the difficulty of verifying supply chains. in China.
Earlier in June, Mr Biden scrapped tariffs on solar panels from four Southeast Asian countries, leading to accusations that his administration was not serious about cracking down on the job strength.
CBP could need two years to bolster law enforcement, the scale of the task making it potentially more difficult than the post-9/11 effort to track terrorist financing, said Alan Bersin, a former CBP commissioner who is now executive chairman of supply chain technology. Altana AI company.