The Senate unanimously passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which is being considered by the House of Representatives. where an earlier version of the bill passed 406-3 in September 2020.
In recent months, the Biden Administration has threatened American companies with serious legal consequences of doing business with the Chinese industries charged with involvement in the Communist Chinese government’s exploitation of slave labor drawn from the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups (AA, 9-1-21, P. 1).
The Biden declaration accused China of “genocide and crimes against humanity” and – like the Trump Administration before it – banned import of certain products from the Xinjiang region where the labor camps are located.
The bill sets a new standard for goods produced in Xinjiang, banning all such goods unless Customs and Border Protection can firmly establish that they were not made using forced labor.
The legislation reverses what had been the previous burden of proof, creating a presumption that goods produced in Xinjiang involve forced labor.
“This increased burden of proof will no doubt create a burden for some U.S. importers,” say attorneys Ju (Lindsay) Zhu, Sarah Rathke and Daniel Lonergan of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs. For example, some estimates have suggested that Xinjiang supplies more than 80% of Chinese cotton.
A State Department advisory also describes a range of other industries and products where Uyghur forced labor may be present, including electronics, solar energy, motor vehicles, agriculture, coal, uranium and asbestos.
If the bill is enacted, U.S. companies will need to increase their awareness of what goes on in their Chinese supply chains. Some international human rights group make this information available, and importers will be expected to perform their own investigations. However, it is likely U.S. companies will require guidance from the CBP before acting.