US Bans All Cotton Products, Xinjiang Tomatoes Due To Forced Labor

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The United States will ban the entry of all cotton and tomato products to China’s Xinjiang region, where it says Beijing oppresses minority Muslim Uyghurs.

The move is the latest in a series of actions in which the United States is pressuring China over alleged mistreatment of workers by some companies. The United States claims the Chinese government has detained more than one million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in “re-education” internment camps, claims the Beijing Foreign Ministry denies.

“Forced labor is a form of modern slavery,” Department of Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said on a call to reporters Wednesday. “Made in China” is not only the country of origin, it is a warning label. “

Goods to be detained at U.S. ports of entry under the so-called restraint order, or WRO, following a customs and border protection investigation include clothing, textiles, seeds of tomatoes, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, said acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan. . The WRO will also apply to products made in other countries using cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, he said.

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The action is a blow to the US garment industry, given that one-fifth of the world’s cotton comes from the region. The United States imported $ 9 billion in cotton products last year and $ 10 million in tomatoes from China, said Brenda Smith, the executive assistant commissioner at CBP’s trade office.

In a statement, the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the US Fashion Industry Association asked CBP to share the evidence and thresholds used to reach its conclusions. They also called for the agency to “share enforcement actions so the industry can better inform its due diligence and amplify and expand CBP enforcement efforts.”

The ban is “very important,” AFOA President and CEO Steve Lamar said in an email response to questions. “All companies that use cotton in their supply chains need to take this into account.” The association represents more than 590 companies.

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In September, CBP announced that it was planning WROs covering all cotton, textile and tomato products in the northwestern Xinjiang region. CBP has already issued WROs against three producers of hair products and clothing based in Xinjiang in 2020.

Xinjiang is the largest tomato producing and processing region in China and Asia, generating about 70% of the total shipments of this product in the country. Tomatoes are also the region’s main export product, with an annual value of over $ 500 million. COFCO Tunhe, Chalkis Health Industry Co. and Xinjiang Tianye dominate the tomato industry in the region with a market share of 60%.

China is the world’s largest exporter of tomato paste, accounting for nearly 40% of global trade, according to local media. Xinjiang exported more than 80% of its tomato paste to Russia and Italy in the first 8 months of 2019.

In December, the US-based Center for Global Policy released a report alleging new evidence from Chinese government documents and media reports that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in Xinjiang were forced to harvest. cotton in hand through coercive labor mandated by the state.

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US President-elect Joe Biden has called China’s program of mass detention and re-education of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang “genocide” and called for an international effort to oppose the campaign.

In addition to ensuring targeted enforcement, the incoming administration should consider a “global” approach to aligning US allies on ending forced labor in Xinjiang, AFOA’s Lamar said.

“It is important that this is a coordinated effort to ensure that products made with forced labor are not sent to China for domestic consumption or used elsewhere in the world,” he said.

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