Will the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act make a difference? – the diplomat

By striking at the heart of slavery in northwest China, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) has put Washington on a collision course with Beijing. At the same time, the act is fraught with loopholes and ambiguities, and failure to address them can render it meaningless.

The legislation, which took effect in the United States on June 21, presumes that all goods from Xinjiang have been contaminated with forced labor unless they are proven innocent. It requires importers to ensure beyond reasonable doubt that their supply chains are clean. One million companies globally that buy and sell daily products could be affected by the new law, and the list of major industries involved runs into the thousands.

Companies across the board have been pushed into a minefield of fine print as the US Department of Homeland Security launches its powerful mission to “end the abhorrent practice of forced labor worldwide,” with particular reference to Xinjiang, cotton, clothing and tomatoes. and polysilicon industries. Weeding out culprits and questionable supply chains, while at the same time facilitating legitimate trade, promises to be a daunting task. DNA tracing testing, investigation of raw material origins, dissection of the myriad sub-assemblies and outsourcing determinations are some of the issues that will need to be examined with a fine-tooth comb with an improved border force tuned to the mushroom as propulsion begins .

But the new measures mean nothing without the cooperation of the democratic world. If Canada, Europe and other countries involved in the procurement refuse to withdraw their weight, the goods will simply be redirected and the new law will have little effect on the ground.

Sam Brownback, US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF) from 2018 to 2021, speaking at a side event to this year’s IRF Summit, wholeheartedly supported the legislation, but urged the world to join in. He said Western companies are “supporting China”, asking the global community to “choose” and root out human rights abuses in trade.

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Gohar Ilham, the daughter of imprisoned Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison for separatism in 2014, begged European companies in the same side event not to become a “waste land” for Uyghur forced labor. Stressing that “there is clear and convincing evidence” of slavery, she urged full transparency in the supply chain and the courage to hold authorities and companies accountable.

But Canada, which still sticks to Xinjiang’s own trade law, could make or break the UFLPA, at least in the early stages, noted Sarah Tisch, a Canada-based international human rights lawyer, who pointed out the danger of the goods banned in the United States. . The US is simply changing course through Canada, which has a free trade agreement with Washington. Tech noted that screening capacity is lacking, and while 1,400 products were turned away from the US border last year, the number in Canada was just one. Canada will be a vital ally in ensuring the effectiveness of the legislation.

While the European Parliament has wholeheartedly agreed to ban forced labor products from entering its markets, it still has to face the challenge of the European Commission, and a specific Uyghur law has yet to be discussed.

The Union of Popular Forces for the Liberation of Angola, the latest in the catalog of US efforts to prevent forced labor in its supply chains, goes far beyond the Tariff Act of 1930 in banning the import of goods contaminated with slavery, and fulfills the US commitment in 2020 to ban produced goods. The use of forced labor to enter the country. In targeting products coming from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where violations of good labor practices are common, the law focuses on documented abuses of Turkic peoples in the Uyghur core.

Xinjiang’s policies in Beijing include confining hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to factories and other forms of involuntary labor across China to manufacture goods for Western brands, under the guise of poverty alleviation and the resettlement of ethnic minorities so-called “surplus labor”. UFLPA’s Cause of existenceAccording to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we must assume that “any goods, merchandise, merchandise, or merchandise that have been wholly or partly mined, produced, or manufactured” in Xinjiang have been manufactured with forced labor, “and that such merchandise, merchandise, materials, and merchandise is not entitled to enter into United State “.

Data analyst Kharon has identified Xinjiang as the central hub for raw materials in the global market, so many industries are inescapably linked to Uyghur forced labor. 20 percent of the world’s cotton, 40 percent of the world’s supply of polysilicon for solar panels, and 13 percent of global wind turbine production is manufactured in Xinjiang. Twenty-five percent of the tomato paste, 11 percent of the walnut, and 10 percent of the world’s rayon also come from the region.

While the facts are clear, and the need to rein in Beijing’s human rights abuses is irrefutable, law enforcement is a monumental task and is likely to not only significantly disrupt US imports, but also threaten supply chains around the world. The law was passed amid internal debate and opposition, according to Michael Sobolek, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. Speaking at the IRF side event, Sobolik said that the UFLPA had barely crossed the US legislative quagmire and that its opponents “cared more about climate than human rights.”

According to Sobolek, the passage of the legislation, while welcome, was hardly a start. He foresaw a quarrelsome rocky road ahead. Western complicity in supply chains tainted by forced labor is indisputable, but extricating the United States and other companies from the maze of forced labor complicity was another matter. Some companies may eventually feel that it will be easier to move their business elsewhere. For example, some textile companies have already decided not to use Xinjiang cotton entirely and will export cotton from other regions, leaving 3 million tons of raw cotton in factories, according to the South China Morning Post.

International law firm Gibson Dunn indicated that it would leave no stone unturned in implementing the law and that it would be strictly enforced. But their report, which was based on analysis by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, spelled out the depth of detail to be included. For example, look at the number and diversity of suppliers involved in the automobile industry: 250 first-tier suppliers for thousands of components such as semiconductors, aluminum, glass, engines, and seat fabric, including 18,000 suppliers across the entire supply chain. Separating forced labor from a complex and interconnected supply chain will be a daunting and possibly impossible task.

Solar panels are also in the crosshairs of human rights and human rights activists, who have evidence of supply chains riddled with Uyghur forced labour. CBP noted in its report to Congress that “these silica-based products may include aluminum alloys, silicon, and polysilicon, which are themselves used in building materials, automobiles, petroleum, concrete, glass, ceramics, electronics, and other goods” as well as solar panels. The onus is on importers whose end products may contain any of these ingredients to be aware of the entire supply chain – no matter how little or insignificant the supplier’s input may be.

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In a statement late last week, Robert Silvers, DHS Under Secretary for Policy and Chair of the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF), reiterated the US government’s contempt for importing goods made using forced labor, calling it an “affront to human rights and our national values.”

After enacting the law, which he and Senator Jeff Merkley instigated, Senator Marco Rubio told the BBC that “Congress stands ready to work with President Biden and his administration to ensure that this historic law is fully and rigorously implemented”.

“The strategy we have presented to Congress will achieve tangible progress in combating the use of forced labor while we continue to facilitate legitimate trade,” Rubio added.

Enforcement will be a monumental task, said Haley Bird-Wilt, associate editor at The Dispatch, who has just published an in-depth analysis of the UFLPA’s passing process. Speaking to the IIDR side-event, Beard Welt noted that implementation, while important, would be fraught with logistical complexities. Hundreds of additional employees will have to be hired and she wondered if officials were ready to ship the estimated 11 million that is expected to be returned.

Speaking to The New York Times, Alan Bersin, a former Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection who is now CEO of Altana AI, a company that prides itself on “reliable and resilient” supply chains, said the impact on both the US economy and the world’s would be measured by “Billions of dollars, not millions of dollars.”

“The public is not ready for what will happen,” he added.

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