By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) – Leading U.S. lawmakers proposed legislation on Wednesday aimed at preventing goods made from forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region from reaching the United States. The legislation would require importers to obtain certification from the U.S. government that goods were not produced using forced labor by minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. The heart of the proposed Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and therefore banned under the 1930 Tariff Act, unless the commissioner of U.S.
Customs and Border Protection certifies otherwise. This would shift the burden of proof from the current rule, which bans goods if there is reasonable evidence of forced labor. The bill also calls for the U.S. president to impose sanctions on “any foreign person who ‘knowingly engages'” in forced labor of minority Muslims. It would also require firms to disclose dealings with Xinjiang. The United Nations estimates that more than a million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in camps in Xinjiang over recent years as part of a wide-reaching campaign by Chinese officials to stamp out terrorism.
On Wednesday, China denied Uighurs were subject to forced labor after senior Democratic Senator Bob Menendez accused U.S. firms of willfully ignoring “horrific” conditions in Xinjiang and urged the Commerce Department to prevent American firms and consumers buying goods produced with such labor. If the proposal becomes law, it could have a significant impact on the cotton industry in Xinjiang, which produces a substantial proportion of the world’s supply of the commodity.
Its introduction is likely to anger China, months after Beijing and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump reached an agreement to ease a damaging trade war. MAJOR MULTINATIONALS NAMED The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Representative James McGovern, co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). The CECC has released a report saying forced labor inside and outside of internment camps was part of “systematic repression” of minority groups in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The report, compiled by CECC staff and citing reports in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Mua giầy da nam hàng hiệu other Western media, listed major multinational firms, which are named in the bill and suspected of “directly employing forced labor or sourcing from suppliers that are suspected of using forced labor.” It said they included sportswear firms Adidas and Nike, U.S. wholesaler Costco, high-street fashion retailers Calvin Klein, Esprit, H&M, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as the Coca-Cola Company, and the Campbell Soup Company.
A statement from Coca-Cola said the firm prohibits the use of all forced labor by any company that directly supplies or provides services to its business. It said a facility belonging to Chinese firm COFCO Tunhe, which supplies sugar to Coca-Cola, “passed an internal audit which covers these issues.” In a statement on its website, Nike said it does not directly source products from Xinjiang and has a code of conduct forbidding use of forced labor.