How does forced-produced Turkmen cotton enter global supply chains? – the diplomat

Asia crossroads | Economie | Middle Asia

The cotton industry in Turkmenistan is based on forced labor, but despite the boycotts and bans, goods produced from Turkmen cotton still reach world markets.

In Central Asia, Uzbekistan has long been criticized for state-run forced labor in the cotton industry, but with improvements in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan has come into greater focus for the continued use of forced labor.

Earlier this yearAnd the The Cotton campaign called for the world Uzbek cotton province It will be lifted after significant improvements in the treatment of forced labor. With more than 300 brands signing the pledge, there was a huge sigh at the end of the boycott and it opened the doors for the Uzbek cotton industry.

But Uzbekistan is not the only source of cotton in Central Asia. Neighboring Turkmenistan Also subject to boycott Coordinated by the Cotton Campaign due to forced labor in the industry, 141 brands and companies are currently signed. When it comes to cotton goods in general, Uzbekistan exports much more than Turkmenistan, but Both countries are among the top 25 cotton exporters. And although cotton production in Turkmenistan pales in comparison to the oil and gas business, the industry is still significant in the country.

as To a report on the 2021 cotton harvest in Turkmenistan Released last month by Turkmen.news and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (both members of the Cotton Campaign), forced labor for public sector employees was “widespread and systematic”. The observers also recorded cases of child labor in the fields of Turkmenistan. The report covers how forced labor is in Turkmenistan, conditions in the cotton fields, the experience of farmers, as well as forced labor in silk production.

The report also focuses on how Turkmen cotton enters the global supply chain and how it bypasses current market bans in the United States and Europe.

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In general, Turkmen cotton enters world markets either directly from Turkmenistan as finished or semi-finished goods or through supplies in third countries, such as Turkey and China, but also Pakistan and Portugal, which import Turkmen cotton, spinning, weaving, textile production and other cotton products.

It’s this second stream that’s hard to keep track of. In 2020, more than 60 percent of raw cotton exports went to Turkmenistan (which is also among the world’s largest producers of cotton and cotton goods). Meanwhile, Turkey is the third largest supplier of textiles in the European Union. In 2019, Anti-Slavery International released a report that noted the prevalence of Turkmen cotton in Turkish products. “The special relationship between Turkey and Turkmenistan is of particular importance because it leads to a greater spread of Turkmen cotton and cotton products in Turkey,” The report notedto refer to the large number of joint ventures between Turkish companies and the state-controlled cotton industry in Turkmenistan.

A number of countries have regulations in place that prohibit the import of goods produced through forced labour. Most of them are relatively broad, although there are mechanisms to enact a specific ban.

In 2018, for example, the United States banned the import of all cotton goods from Turkmenistan through “Release order withheldissued by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) given “reasonable evidence” that forced labor was used in the manufacture or production of cotton goods entering the US supply chain. Under the order, CBP could seize “all Turkmenistan’s cotton or wholly produced products or partly with Turkmen cotton “at the border” until/unless importers can demonstrate that there is no forced labor in the product’s supply chain.” The latest report stated: “All products containing Turkmen cotton are contaminated with forced labour.”

In 2021, the Cotton Campaign wrote letters to jam And the Weaver, two major online retailers, are demanding removal of some items that contain Turkmen cotton. Neither company has signed the Turkmen cotton pledge yet, and some cotton goods (such as towels) Turkmenistan is listed as the country of origin It remains available to US customers. This is an apparent violation of a CBP “release withholding order.”

There are still countless ways for Turkmen slave products to be turned into household goods around the world: Turkmen yarn is exported to China in sweaters and is exported with the words “Made in China” on the card; Turkmen fabric exported to Italy or Russia and sewn into curtains or dresses. The recent report by Turkmen.news and the Turkmen Human Rights Initiative asserted that “the only way brands can ensure their operations are free from forced labor is by mapping their supply chains down to the level of raw materials and excluding all cotton with Turkmen origins.” .

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