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21 Jun 2022

Rob Garver, Voice of America (VOA)

USA: Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act comes into force

"US Begins Enforcement of Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act" 20 June 2022

The United States on Tuesday begins enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which requires companies that import goods from China’s Xinjiang region to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that no component was produced with slave labor.

The controversial rule has upset the Chinese government, which has characterized U.S. claims about its oppression of members of the ethnic Uyghur minority as “vicious lies.” But the act is also causing concern among some U.S. businesses, which say the federal government has not provided sufficient guidance on steps they must take to avoid having imports seized at the U.S. border.

Experts warn that compliance with the law will be difficult for many U.S. businesses because of the complexity of their supply chains and the lack of reliable third-party auditors in China who can testify that specific goods are not made with forced labor. Some are concerned it will force businesses to abandon suppliers in the region entirely.

“It is very likely that the UFLPA will amount to an effective ban on imports from Xinjiang and products that have Xinjiang-produced elements in their supply chains,” Cullen Hendrix, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told VOA. [...]

Guidance needed

The UFLPA takes the unusual step of treating all goods with a connection to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China as the product of forced labor unless the importer can provide “clear and convincing evidence” that they are not.

The U.S. has provided some instructions to importers about how to go about providing the evidence the law requires. On June 13, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP) issued a 17-page document called “Operational Guidance for Importers” that provides general guidelines for all goods and specific guidelines for cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon used in solar panels, all of which are widely produced in Xinjiang.

However, that leaves a large number of importers of other goods without specific guidance on the kind of evidence the government would require them to present in order to avoid having their goods seized. Another piece of guidance from the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force (FLETF) is expected to be released Tuesday, the same day that enforcement begins. [...]

Part of the following timelines

China: 83 major brands implicated in report on forced labour of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang assigned to factories across provinces; Includes company responses

China: Mounting concerns over forced labour in Xinjiang

USA: Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act comes into effect