The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval. Once signed — which the president is expected to do — the legislation would ban the import of goods from areas of China known to use forced labor.
The bill, which first passed the Senate in July, finally gained approval in the House this week, with bipartisan backing from senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and congressmen Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ).
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.”
Leaders from the fashion and retail industries cheered the news in a joint statement issued today by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the U.S. Fashion Industry Association and NAFTZ (the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones).
The groups noted, “Our members are persistent and unyielding in their efforts to identify, root out and eliminate traces of forced labor in their supply chains, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a critical partner to supplement our members’ own due diligence.”
They further noted that the bill will help ensure CBP can effectively enforce not only a ban on products imported from Xinjiang, China, but to take action on larger issues of forced labor and go after other “bad actors” through a transparent and evidence-based process.
“These efforts are essential to effectively stop products made with forced labor from entering the United States,” said the organizations.
China has been accused of detaining 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.
Major athletic and companies such as Nike and Adidas — which manufacture in China and are banking on the region for revenue growth — have been dented by boycotts in the country after expressing concern over the mistreatment of Uyghurs.
—With contributions by Meredith Derby Berg