The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would ban the import of all products from areas in China known for forced labor camps.
The bill, sponsored by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), is called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (S.65) and it will ensure that goods such as footwear and apparel do not enter the U.S. if they are created by the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims, and others, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and by certain entities affiliated with the China Communist Party (CCP).
“The message to Beijing and any international company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang is clear: no more,” Rubio said in a statement. “We will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s ongoing crimes against humanity, and we will not allow corporations a free pass to profit from those horrific abuses.”
The bill must pass through the House before landing on President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature into law.
According to a summary of the bill, it “imposes importation limits on goods produced using forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China and imposes sanctions related to such forced labor.”
China has detained more than a million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in the country’s far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where they are allegedly working in conditions of forced labor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Today the Senate is sending a clear message that the United States will not be complicit in the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” Merkley said in the statement. “Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang are being forced into labor, tortured, imprisoned, forcibly sterilized, and pressured to abandon their religious and cultural practices by the Chinese government. No American corporation should profit from these abuses. No American consumers should be inadvertently purchasing products from slave labor.”
Nike and Adidas — who are banking on huge growth from China in the coming years — recently faced threats of boycotts for expressing concern over the alleged mistreatment of Uyghurs.
Matthew Friend, EVP and CFO of Nike, said on a recent call with analysts that business in China was impacted during the most recent quarter — but said the company is committed and optimistic about the region.