Biden signs bill banning goods from Xinjiang to China for forced labor

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US President Joe Biden speaks on the country’s fight against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the White House in Washington, United States, December 21, 2021. REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON, Dec.23 (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a law banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns over forced labor, the White House said.

The Uyghur law on the prevention of forced labor is part of the US response to Beijing’s treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority, which Washington has called genocide.

The bill was passed by Congress this month after lawmakers reached a compromise between the House and Senate versions. Read more

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Key to the legislation is a “rebuttable presumption” which assumes that all goods in Xinjiang, where Beijing has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, are manufactured with forced labor. It bans imports unless it can be proven otherwise.

Some products – such as cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon used in the manufacture of solar panels – are designated “high priority” for enforcement action.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.

His embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Nury Turkel, Uyghur-American vice president of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, told Reuters this month that the bill’s effectiveness will depend on the Biden administration’s willingness to ensure its effectiveness, by especially when companies request exemptions.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, said it was necessary “to send a resounding and unequivocal message against genocide and forced labor.”

“Now … we can finally ensure that American consumers and businesses can purchase goods without inadvertently complicity in the horrific human rights violations in China,” he said in a statement.

In its final days in January, the Trump administration announced a ban on all cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang. Read more

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection then estimated that around $ 9 billion in cotton products and $ 10 million in tomato products had been imported from China in the past year.

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Reporting by Paul Grant and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Howard Goller

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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