On December 23, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law. The legislation, which received bipartisan support in Congress, bans all imports from China’s Xinjiang province, under the presumption that all goods from the area are produced with forced labor, and imposes sanctions on foreign individuals responsible for forced labor in the region.

The Chinese government has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang, and the law bans imports from the region under the “rebuttable presumption” that forced labor was part of their production. Imports from Xinjiang will only be allowed into the country if the U.S. government has “clear and convincing evidence” that forced labor was not part of their production.

“The State Department is committed to working with Congress and our interagency partners to continue addressing forced labor in Xinjiang and to strengthen international action against this egregious violation of human rights,” says U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “This new law gives the U.S. government new tools to prevent goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang from entering U.S. markets and to further promote accountability for persons and entities responsible for these abuses.”

Prior to the president’s signature, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “This bill represents our country’s commitment to protecting human dignity and leading the fight against forced labor. We have a moral and economic imperative to eliminate this practice from our global supply chains, including those that run through Xinjiang, China, and exploit Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities.”

China has rejected the forced labor claims made by the U.S. and other governments. In a statement, its embassy in Washington said, “This is a severe violation of international law and norms of international relations, and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs. China strongly condemns and firmly rejects it.”

In July 2020, the U.S. Government issued an advisory to caution businesses about the reputational, financial and legal risks of forced labor in Xinjiang. In January of this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a region-wide Withhold Release Order on products made by slave labor in Xinjiang and began detaining cotton products and tomato products produced in the region at all U.S. ports of entry.

PPAI has been tracking this issue for several years and has prepared guidance to assist industry companies in tracking where their goods, including components and raw materials, are manufactured. The Supply Chain Mapping And Traceability webinar offers a wealth of information to help companies dig deeper into their supply chains and avoid the presence of forced labor. PPAI also has resources on its corporate responsibility page to help industry companies navigate the pending requirements.