The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said on Wednesday that if your t-shirt is made of Xinjiang cotton and your Heinz ketchup packages are from Xinjiang tomatoes, they will be detained. in American ports. They are now prohibited.
Previously, these so-called Stay Orders (WROs) were issued against specific companies. Today’s decision removes the specifics of the company and targets the entire state of West China, a state that now houses hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims held in detention centers, facilities that Beijing believes necessary to divert Muslims from terrorism and ideological beliefs that may remain. against the ruling Communist Party.
“Today’s order orders thousands of customs officers at all ports of entry to detain these goods from Xinjiang,” said Mark Morgan, commissioner at CBP.
Xinjiang is the hub of cotton and tomato cultivation in China.
Domestic Security investigations indicate that there is forced labor in Xinjiang. In order to issue import banks, CPB must have “reasonable suspicion” of forced labor practices. Some of these sources of information are non-governmental organizations sharing information with Washington.
CBP said it has identified the presence of at least six labor violations against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including intimidation and threats; wage deduction and debt bondage to name a few.
The new ban “includes canned tomatoes, tomato seeds and tomato sauce. We have a right to know where these things are made and how they are produced, ”Morgan says. “Businesses have a responsibility to know their supply chains. There is a legal and reputational risk in using forced labor in their supply chains, ”he said.
CPB admits that it’s not easy to keep track of these things. But they are improving, especially by using new technologies to track the origin of products. Blockchain is also seen as a better way to do this.
This is certainly not the first time that China has been hit by WROs. No later than December. CBP issued one for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). Much of the cotton and cotton products from there were tied to XPCC.
On September 14, 2020, CBP announced five WROs on companies, including manufacturers of laptops for Google Chrome. Some 13 WROs were issued against Chinese companies in 2020, as of July, and CBP says it has detained more than 300 consignments worth more than $ 50 million worth of goods made by forced labor, although this not just China. Most of the counterfeiting and forced labor violations, however, come from China, CBP said in a press this morning.
New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell referred to Heinz’s Chinese sources at a House Ways and Means Committee meeting on Xinjiang the same month.
According to CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith, imports of tomato products from China were around $ 10 million last year. For cotton and cotton products the data is more difficult due to the processing that is done with the product in the first place. She said the United States imported $ 9 billion worth of cotton products from China in the past 12 months, most of which are yarns, fabrics and clothing.
Morgan said American consumers also need to be more informed about what they are buying. “Buy from reputable retailers,” he says. “Learn about industries that pose a high risk of forced labor. Consumers have incredible purchasing power and we urge them to use it. “
CBP enforces around 500 different trade laws in some 49 different agencies. Eliminating forced labor from U.S. supply chains is an integral, if not intimidating, part of their mandate.
Ken Cuccinelli, assistant secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, estimates that forced labor generates more than $ 100 billion in profits worldwide each year. The goals of these companies are always to reduce production costs in order to sell products below market prices, which introduces unequal competition in global supply chains. “It ultimately hurts American businesses and workers,” Cuccinelli says. “Forced labor is a violation of human rights… which damages our economy.”
Importers have a responsibility to know the sourcing of their supply chain. Once a company goes through a WRO, it is their responsibility to show that their supply chains are clean. Sometimes this requires third-party validation by auditing agencies experienced in verifying workforce issues. The WRO can be lifted once companies argue otherwise.
The regional ban will likely lead customs to simply add all companies in Xinjiang province involved in cotton and tomato production to be banned until their innocence is proven.
“If you look at last year, there were more WROs issued by us than at any time in our history,” Cuccinelli says. “Nobody’s ever been able to challenge a CBP WRO, period. This WRO is airtight. “
Cuccinelli took what could be a final tee shot against China at the head of Homeland.
“As I said before, Made in Chian doesn’t just indicate a country of origin… it’s a warning label,” he said, noting that this year CBP has seized in ports US unapproved Covid test kits.
But perhaps even more worrying than the medical kits that might not even work, Xinjiang’s supply chains are marred by “gross human rights violations,” he says.
“The Chinese government has detained over a million people in Xinjiang and the victims are being forced into political indoctrination and forced sterilization. The Chinese chief of the Xinjiang region has issued a directive aimed at “rounding up all those who should be arrested,” Cuccinelli concluded. “I think you can understand what this means.”