US House of Representatives votes to take action against forced labour in cotton supply chains

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today to take comprehensive action against the import of apparel and other goods from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region).

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H. R. 6210) establishes the legal presumption that any product arriving at US ports that was manufactured in the Uyghur Region, or contains inputs from the region, was made using forced labour. Unless the corporation importing the product can prove there was no forced labour used in its production, the importation of the product is considered illegal and the product is barred from entering the US.
The bill must still pass the US Senate, but this is a huge step.
The House has recognized that forced labour is ubiquitous in the Uyghur Region and that the climate of political repression makes it impossible to do the kind of labour inspections that would allow brands and retailers to ensure that any farm or factory is free of forced labour. Given this reality, the only way brands and retailers can keep forced labour out of their supply chains and out of goods they import into the US is to extricate their supply chains from the Uyghur Region.
The US House’s action sends a powerful message to apparel brands and retailers, and other corporations selling goods in the US, that complicity in forced labor in the Uyghur Region will no longer be tolerated.
The House was forced to act because brands and retailers have failed to do so thus far. It is already illegal to import forced labour-made goods into the US. Despite this, brands and retailers, particularly in the apparel sector, have continued to source from the Uyghur Region, resulting in billions of dollars in forced labour-made apparel and other goods being imported into the US and sold to consumers.

The Uyghur Region is the source of 20 percent of global cotton output, which means that roughly one in five cotton garments entering the US contains cotton from the region and may be tainted by forced labour.
Apparel brands and retailers should now see the writing on the wall: business as usual in the Uygur Region is no longer possible.
Brands and retailers that want to obey the law, and end their complicity in forced labour, must plan and execute a swift exit from the Uyghur Region – before the US government forces them to do so.
This is why the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region has issued a Call to Action, endorsed by over 280 human rights, labour rights, and Uyghur organizations from three dozen countries, asking brands and retailers to make concrete, public commitments to exit the region.

published 2020-09-22