Senate Passes Bill to Curtail Imports from Xinjiang over Uyghur Forced Labor

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Outside a “vocational skills education center” in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018 (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The Senate passed a bill to curtail imports from Xinjiang Province in China on Wednesday evening, following reports of China’s mass internment and sterilization of Uyghurs and other minorities in the region.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) and passed by a voice vote, seeks to prevent importation of all goods made in Xinjiang with forced labor. Various reports have emerged alleging that China forces Uyghurs to work in industries and supply chains based in Xinjiang, for products including solar panels and cotton.

The bill would establish a “rebuttable presumption” that goods made in the region were made with forced labor, which would ban their importation to the Unites States. An importer would need to prove that its goods are not made with forced labor in order for those goods to enter the country. Various companies including Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike lobbied against the bill in 2020.

“Once this bill passes the House and is signed by the President, the United States will have more tools to prevent products made with forced labor from entering our nation’s supply chains,” Rubio said in a statement urging the House and President Biden to pass the law quickly.

“No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor,” Merkley commented.

It is unclear when the House will take up debate on the bill.

The U.S. State Department warned on Monday that companies with supply chains or investments in Xinjiang, or that provide venture capital to firms in the province, could run the risk of violating American law over forced-labor concerns.

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