US moves to support Australian push to tackle China's 'human and labour rights abuses'
22 February 2021
The Biden administration says it will talk with the Morrison government about tackling China’s “human and labour rights abuses”, as the United States offered qualified support for a new Australian bill to ban imports from the Xinjiang region.
The bill, proposed by the South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick, would prohibit the importation into Australia of goods from Xinjiang province “as well as goods from other parts of China that are produced by using forced labour”.
The anti-slavery group Be Slavery Free has told the Senate inquiry that the Australian Modern Slavery Act that passed the parliament in 2018 “is not sufficient to address issues such as state-sanction forced labour and human trafficking”.
The group says seven companies have identified risks in sourcing from China but do not mention Xinjiang as a specific risk.
It praises just three entities – Woolworths, Kathmandu and PVH Brands Limited – for identifying specific Xinjiang risks and outlining actions taken in response.
Woolworths said in its statement: “In response to allegations of forced labour in Xinjiang province in China, we have commenced tracing our garment supply chain in that region. We have no direct suppliers producing goods in Xinjiang and are conducting further due diligence on cotton sourced as a raw material.”
Kathmandu said: “A further risk of forced labour stems from the internment of over one million Chinese citizens of ethnic Turkic origin in the Xinjiang region as well as forced labour by prisoners incarcerated in China’s regular judicial system. This risk is therefore potentially present at all levels of the supply chain, from the farm level (for cotton and other agriculture products) to the manufacture of finished goods.”
Be Slavery Free noted that PVH Brands – whose portfolio includes Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Heritage Brands – had made a modern slavery statement to the effect that it had withdrawn from the area: “In 2019 Xinjiang Province was added to our restricted Jurisdiction.”