Cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang are being withheld over forced labor concerns
By Diego Flammini
The U.S. is blocking some Chinese ag products from entering the country.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Jan. 13 it is preventing cotton and tomato products from China’s Xinjiang region from entering country at all ports of entry because evidence suggests those products were produced using forced labor.
A U.S. document, the International Labor Office’s Indicators of Forced Labor, provides 11 examples of forced labor.
Multiple indicators, including debt bondage, restriction of movement and abusive living and working conditions, were observed in the region, CBP said.
America “will not tolerate forced labor of any kind in U.S. supply chains. We will continue to protect the American people and investigate credible allegations of forced labor, we will prevent goods made by forced labor from entering our country, and we demand the Chinese close their camps and stop their human rights violations,” Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary with the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
The region is China’s main cotton-producing area.
About 85 percent of the country’s cotton comes from Xinjiang. In the last year, the U.S. has imported about $9 billion in cotton products from China and another $10 million in tomato products.
The Xinjiang region is also home to internment camps where Uyghurs, one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities, live.
More than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups live in these camps, the State Department estimates.
There have been multiple reports of abuse at these camps, which China has denied.
The U.S. isn’t the only country to take measures to stop imports of goods from the Xinjiang region.
“Canada is gravely concerned with evidence and reports of human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China involving members of the Uyghur ethnic minority and other minorities within Xinjiang,” Canada’s foreign affairs and trade ministers said in a Jan. 12 statement.
Canada is now prohibiting imports of goods produced in Xinjiang using forced labor and will require companies operating in the region to acknowledge the human rights situation there.
Britain has also announced similar measures.