Multinationals in US lobby against Xinjiang forced labour bill: Report
New York: Major multinational companies and business groups are lobbying Congress to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, media reports said on Thursday.
The bill, which would prohibit broad categories of certain goods made by persecuted Muslim minorities in an effort to crack down on human rights abuses, has gained bipartisan support, passing the House in September by a margin of 406 to 3.
Congressional aides say it has the backing to pass the Senate, and could be signed into law by either the Trump administration or the incoming Biden administration, The New York Times reported.
But the legislation, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, has become the target of multinational companies including Apple whose supply chains touch the far western Xinjiang region, as well as of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Lobbyists have fought to water down some of its provisions, arguing that while they strongly condemn forced labor and current atrocities in Xinjiang, the act’s ambitious requirements could wreak havoc on supply chains that are deeply embedded in China, reports the newspaper.
Incidentally, Xinjiang region in China produces vast amounts of raw materials like cotton, coal, sugar, tomatoes and polysilicon, and supplies workers for China’s apparel and footwear factories.
Human rights groups and news reports have linked many multinational companies to suppliers there, including tying Coca-Cola to sugar sourced from Xinjiang, and documenting Uighur workers in a factory in Qingdao that makes Nike shoes, reports The New York Times.
In a report issued in March, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, listed Nike and Coca-Cola as companies suspected of ties to forced labor in Xinjiang, alongside Adidas, Calvin Klein, Campbell Soup Company, Costco, H&M, Patagonia, Tommy Hilfiger and others, reports the newspaper.
Greg Rossiter, the director of global communications at Nike, has been quoted as saying by The New York Times that the company “did not lobby against” the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act but instead had “constructive discussions” with congressional staff aides aimed at eliminating forced labor and protecting human rights.
Reports say that Beijing has detained more than one million people from Xinjiang in recent years, citing security risks. Thousands of children have been separated from their parents and women have been forcibly subjected to methods of birth control.
China maintains that the people interned at these sites are given job training and education which is necessary to keep them away from terrorism and counter the secessionist forces in the region.