Over President Biden’s early opposition, an overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans joined to pass a bill banning imports of goods produced by Chinese slave labor.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was signed into law on Dec. 23 by Biden in spite of his earlier attempts to water it down. This was days after the administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.”
Days earlier, the China slavery legislation passed the House by a vote of 428-1 and the Senate by 99-1, which made it veto-proof if there had been any continued opposition by Biden.
The law bans imports into the U.S. of items “mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) or by persons working with the XUAR government for purposes of the “poverty alleviation” program or the “pairing-assistance” program.
The new law goes into effect 180 days after enactment. It establishes a rebuttable presumption that all goods originating from XUAR violate existing U.S. law prohibiting the importation of goods made with forced labor.
The law also requires federal officials to solicit public comments and hold a public hearing to aid in developing a strategy for the enforcement of the import ban vis-à-vis goods alleged to have been made through forced labor in China.
“This rebuttable presumption will present significant challenges to businesses with supply chains that might touch the Xinjiang region,” say attorneys Ludmilla Kasulke and Rory Murphy of the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs
They note that many businesses don’t have full visibility into their supply chains and will need to act quickly to map their suppliers and respond to identified risks. In addition, detailed documentation will be required to obtain release of shipments.