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2 Dec 2020

Ana Swanson, New York Times (USA)

USA: Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola among companies reportedly lobbying Congress to weaken Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Bill

"Nike and Coca-Cola Lobby Against Xinjiang Forced Labor Bill", 29 November 2020

WASHINGTON — Nike and Coca-Cola are among the major companies and business groups lobbying Congress to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region, according to congressional staff members and other people familiar with the matter, as well as lobbying records that show vast spending on the legislation. [...]

But the legislation, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, has become the target of multinational companies including Apple whose supply chains touch the far western Xinjiang region, as well as of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Lobbyists have fought to water down some of its provisions, arguing that while they strongly condemn forced labor and current atrocities in Xinjiang, the act’s ambitious requirements could wreak havoc on supply chains that are deeply embedded in China. Xinjiang produces vast amounts of raw materials like cotton, coal, sugar, tomatoes and polysilicon, and supplies workers for China’s apparel and footwear factories. [...]

In a statement, Coca-Cola said that it “strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain” and uses third-party auditors to closely monitor its suppliers. It also said that the COFCO Tunhe facility in Xinjiang, which supplies sugar to a local bottling facility and had been linked to allegations of forced labor by The Wall Street Journal and Chinese-language news media, “successfully completed an audit in 2019.”

Greg Rossiter, the director of global communications at Nike, said the company “did not lobby against” the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act but instead had “constructive discussions” with congressional staff aides aimed at eliminating forced labor and protecting human rights. [...]

[F]or many companies, fully investigating and eliminating any potential ties to forced labor there has been difficult, given the opacity of Chinese supply chains and the limited access of auditors to a region where the Chinese government tightly restricts people’s movements. [...]

Apple [...] has also lobbied to limit some provisions of the bill, said two congressional staff members [...] Disclosure forms show that Apple paid Fierce Government Relations [...] to lobby on issues including Xinjiang-related legislation in the third quarter. [...] Apple disputed the claim that it had tried to weaken the legislation, saying it supported efforts to strengthen American regulations and believes the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act should become law.

[also mentions Adidas, Calvin Klein, Campbell Soup Company, Costco, Foxconn, Google, H&M, Microsoft, O-Film Technology, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger]

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: 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