According to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the United States is imposing a region-wide ban on all cotton and tomato products from China’s western Xinjiang region over allegations of forced labour from detained Uighur Muslims.
The ban applies to raw fibres, apparel and textiles made from the region’s grown cotton, as well as tomato-based food products and seeds. The action also applies to to products processed or manufactured in third countries, CBP officials said during a news meeting.
In December, the US Congress passed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which assumes that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labour and therefore banned under the 1930 Smoot Hawley Tariff Act, unless the CBP commissioner certifies otherwise.
The move is the latest by the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump to harden the US position against Beijing in the administration’s final days.
In the past year, the agency, which is part of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), estimated that about USD9 billion of cotton products and USD10 million worth of tomato products were imported into the US.
In a statement, DHS acting deputy secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said the order sends a message to importers that DHS will not tolerate forced labour of any kind and companies should eradicate Xinjiang products from their supply chains.
The move will have a significant impact on the cotton production in Xinjiang, which produces as much as 20% of the world’s supply of the commodity.
According to CBP officials around 43 shipments of cotton-based products have been detained at US entry ports since the XPCC ban was announced.
The United Nations cites what it says are credible reports that one million Muslims held in camps have been put to work in Xinjiang and faith leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, are taking place there.
In another report cited, the United Kingdom has introduced new measures to root out the presence of alleged forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region in British supply chains.
According to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, they must make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang, and to make sure that the products of human rights violations that take place in those camps do not end up on the shelves of supermarkets.
China is accused of extrajudicially detaining over 1 million Uighur Muslims and other minorities in political re-education camps in the northwestern autonomous region, along with invasive surveillance, restrictions on Uighur culture and the use of forced labor.
China denies the allegations, claiming that the centers are aimed at combating extremism and encouraging the development of vocational skills.