U.S. to ban cotton imports from Xinjiang . . .
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has initiated the process to impose Withhold Release Orders (WRO) – essentially import bans – on seven types of goods from Xinjiang, China, including cotton, according to a Reuters report this week. The WRO would allow the CBP to withhold, re-export, or destroy shipments based on suspicion of forced-labour involvement. The move would disrupt the global supply chain for cotton – over 15 per cent of the world’s cotton is grown in Xinjiang. Although the scope of this WRO is unprecedented, the U.S. government has issued several warning signs to industry. The U.S. Senate previously introduced legislation requiring “clear evidence” that products are not sourced from Xinjiang, and the U.S. advised companies about the risks of doing business in Xinjiang in July.
Mounting domestic and international pressure . . .
The news follows pressure from several activist rights groups calling for the imposition of a WRO on cotton goods from Xinjiang and for clothing brands to stop sourcing from the region. Simultaneously, international efforts to hold China accountable for the mass internment and abuse of millions of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang are mounting. Members of the ethnic minority have now brought the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing the Chinese government of crimes against humanity and genocide. The U.S. and China do not recognize the ICC. The Canadian government continues to receive calls from Uyghur Canadians and Members of Parliament, to take action against the mass detention of Uyghurs in China.
Implementation and retaliation among challenges . . .
Policing imports sourced from Xinjiang is a massive undertaking, perhaps an unachievable one, as it would require tracing exports from Xinjiang through the entire Chinese and Asian supply chain. Furthermore, banning tens of billions of dollars in imports from Xinjiang would almost certainly trigger retaliation from China. China also imports a large amount of cotton from the U.S., and bans would likely lead to tit-for-tat retaliation. For now, however, China’s foreign affairs director Zhao Lijian dismissed the news, saying that he thinks “the U.S. cares nothing about human rights.”