A recent report calls on Congress and the White House to take more steps to enforce the existing prohibition on imports of goods made with forced labor and the pending ban on imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
According to the most recent annual report from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, international businesses continue to be at risk of complicity in the Chinese government’s increased use of forced labor in the XUAR. Reports of forced labor in cotton harvesting, solar panel production, and personal protective equipment production, as well as manufacturing in general, “mean that the supply chains of many major brands may now be tainted with forced labor,” the report said. Further, firms “cannot rely on factory audits to ensure that their supply chains are free of forced labor in the XUAR, as due diligence organizations, labor experts, and U.S. government agencies have pointed to numerous problems with audits conducted in the XUAR.”
In response, the report urges members of Congress and administration officials to take a number of actions, including the following.
- engage U.S. companies on human rights issues in China such as forced labor in the XUAR, including encouraging them to (1) cease doing business with firms in the XUAR until the Chinese government ends forced labor and other practices and (2) change their approach to conducting due diligence in China by moving beyond codes of conduct and third-party factory audits
- consider legislation requiring greater supply chain transparency so that forced labor and other abuses are not hidden by layers of subcontractors and suppliers (the report asserts that “a significant number of brands” have limited or no visibility beyond their first tier of supply chains)
- direct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clarify guidelines so that companies importing to the U.S. can provide adequate evidence that their goods are not produced in whole or in part with forced labor from the XUAR
- increase appropriations for CBP’s forced labor enforcement, including by expanding the existing forensic verification of origin testing technology, which can identify trace amounts of cotton and other products and link them to the XUAR
- direct CBP to examine imports of all goods made in whole or in part in the XUAR, or by workers from the XUAR, and determine whether such imports violate the prohibition on imports of goods made with forced labor under 19 USC 1307
- work with other governments and legislatures to encourage import bans on products made in whole or in part in the XUAR or in factories that recruit workers from the XUAR
- take necessary steps to prohibit the export of U.S. surveillance technologies and equipment to Chinese police, including biometric identification technologies enabled with artificial intelligence
- enact legislation that would create incentives to expand solar technology supply chains in the U.S. in order to eliminate reliance on products or inputs made with forced labor
- develop legislation and work with like-minded governments to invest in industries critical to the well-being of the U.S. and its allies; e.g., solar panel production and medical equipment
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg offers a comprehensive suite of services to help companies address forced labor concerns in China and elsewhere, including supply chain reviews, due diligence strategies, and proactive remediation. ST&R also maintains a frequently updated web page offering a broad range of information on forced labor-related efforts in the U.S. and around the world. For more information, please contact ST&R at email@example.com.
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