China Blindsided By New Law By United States Targeting Slave Labor

( Last Thursday President Biden finally got around to signing into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, the legislation barring imports of Chinese products made through the use of slave labor in the Xinjiang province. And some US industries will be hit hard by the import ban, further complicating the current supply chain crisis.

America’s $150 billion fashion industry is likely to be severely disrupted since 20 percent of the world’s cotton supply is produced in the Xinjiang region. According to industry experts, with 20 percent of the world’s supply off-limits for import, the price of cotton will inevitably skyrocket.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act creates the legal presumption that goods made in the Xinjiang province or with raw materials from Xinjiang are made through forced labor and therefore barred from entry into the US. It is the responsibility of US importers to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that their Xinjiang supplier does not use forced labor – evidence that may be difficult, if not impossible, to provide.

In 2020, a congressional commission determined that Nike, Coca-Cola, Costco, Calvin Klein, Patagonia, and many other US corporations were suspected of either employing forced labor or using sources from other suppliers suspected of using forced labor.

Last year, the United States began restricting imports of products from four Xinjian companies suspected of using Uyghur slaves. And in January 2021, the Trump administration ordered a stop to imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang.

That same month, the Uyghur protection legislation was introduced in Congress. Among the US corporations who were lobbying heavily to stop or weaken the bill were Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola.

The fashion industry, however, was the most outspoken opponent of the bill. Twenty percent of the global cotton crop is grown in the Xinjiang province then sent to mills and apparel makers throughout China and worldwide.

In testimony to Congress before the bill passed, the president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, Stephen Lemar said while the industry has been working to remove products produced by forced labor, currently, the US does not have the “capacity to implement or comply with” the legislation. He said the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would “wreak havoc on human rights, economic development, and legitimate supply chains” that are already “battered by COVID-19 all over the world.”