Xinjiang Chinese cotton and tomatoes banned from forced labor by the American homeland
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said on Wednesday that if your t-shirt is made of Xinjiang cotton and your Heinz ketchup packets come from tomatoes from Xinjiang, they will be blocked in American ports. They are now banned.
Previously, these so-called release orders (WROs) were issued against specific companies. Today’s decision removes the specifics of the company and targets the entire state of West China, a state that now houses hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims held in detention centers, facilities that, according to Beijing, are necessary to divert Muslims from terrorism and ideological beliefs that may endure. against the ruling Communist Party.
“Today’s order orders thousands of customs officers at all ports of entry to detain goods from Xinjiang,” said Mark Morgan, commissioner at CBP.
Xinjiang is the hub of cotton and tomato cultivation in China.
Domestic Security investigations indicate that there is forced labor in Xinjiang. In order to issue import banks, the CPB must have “reasonable suspicions” of forced labor practices. Some of these news sources are non-governmental organizations sharing information with Washington.
CBP said it identified the presence of at least six labor law violations used against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, including acts of intimidation and threats; payroll deduction and debt bondage to name a few.
The latest ban “includes canned tomatoes, tomato seeds, tomato sauce. We have a right to know where these things are made and how they are produced, ”Morgan said. “Businesses have a responsibility to know their supply chains. The use of forced labor in their supply chains poses a risk to reputation and the law, ”he said.
CPB admits that it’s not easy to keep track of these things. But they are improving, especially by using new technologies to track the origin of products. Blockchain is also seen as a better way to do this.
This is certainly not the first time China has been hit by WROs. No later than December. CBP issued one for the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). Much of the cotton and cotton products that came from it were connected to XPCC.
On September 14, 2020, CBP announced five WROs on companies, including manufacturers of laptops for Google Chrome. Some 13 WROs were issued against Chinese companies in 2020, from July, and CBP says it has detained more than 300 shipments worth more than $ 50 million worth of goods made by forced labor, though not all of China. However, most of the counterfeiting and forced labor violations originate in China, CBP said in a statement this morning.
New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell mentioned the Chinese sources of Heinz at a meeting of the House Ways & Means Committee in Xinjiang that same month.
According to CBP Assistant Executive Commissioner Brenda Smith, imports of tomato products from China were around $ 10 million last year. For cotton and cotton products the data is more difficult due to the processing that is done with the product in the first place. She said the United States imported $ 9 billion worth of cotton products from China in the past 12 months, most of which were yarns, fabrics and clothing.
Morgan said American consumers also need to be more informed about what they are buying. “Shop with reputable retailers,” he said. “Learn more about industries that pose a high risk of forced labor. Consumers have incredible purchasing power and we urge them to use it.
CBP enforces around 500 different trade laws in some 49 different agencies. Eliminating forced labor from U.S. supply chains is an integral, if not intimidating, part of their mandate.
Ken Cuccinelli, deputy secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, estimates that forced labor generates more than $ 100 billion in profits worldwide each year. Still, the goals of these companies are to reduce production costs in order to sell goods below market rates, which introduces unequal competition in global supply chains. “It ultimately hurts American businesses and workers,” Cuccinelli said. “Forced labor is a violation of human rights… which damages our economy. “
Importers have a responsibility to know the sourcing of their supply chain. Once a company goes through a WRO, it is their responsibility to show that their supply chains are clean. Sometimes this requires third party validation by auditing agencies experienced in verifying workforce issues. The WRO can be lifted once companies argue otherwise.
The regional ban will likely lead customs to simply add all companies in Xinjiang province involved in cotton and tomato production to be banned guilty until proven guilty.
“If you look at last year, we issued more WROs than at any time in our history,” says Cuccinelli. “No one has ever been able to challenge a CBP WRO, period. This WRO is airtight.
Cuccinelli took what could be a final tee shot against China at the head of Homeland.
“I’ve said it before, Made in Chian doesn’t just indicate a country of origin… it’s a warning label,” he said, noting that this year, CBP has entered in US ports of unapproved Covid test kits.
But perhaps even more worrying than the medical kits that might not even work, Xinjiang’s supply chains are marred by “gross human rights violations,” he said.
“The Chinese government has detained over a million people in Xinjiang and the victims are being forced into political indoctrination and forced sterilization. The Chinese chief of the Xinjiang region has issued a directive to “bring together all those who should be assembled,” Cuccinelli concluded. “I think you can understand what this means.”