Sep 27, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Group seeks import ban on Apple gear over forced labor

Ina Fried
People walk past an advertisement for the new iPhone 13 series in Beijing.

People walk past an advertisement for the new iPhone 13 series in Beijing. Photo: An Xin/Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A non-profit group critical of tech companies is filing a complaint against Apple today with the Customers and Border Protection, seeking to have the agency block imports of iPhones and other products, Axios has learned.

  • Campaign for Accountability's Tech Transparency Project argues that Apple's products rely on components made using forced labor in China and maintains the agency has the power to block imports under the Tariff Act of 1930.

Why it matters: Getting the agency to stop Apple from bringing its gear to the U.S. seems like a long shot, but the complaint could draw further attention to the supply chain used by Apple and other tech companies.

Catch-up quick: A report by The Information earlier this year linked seven Apple suppliers to forced labor, including by Uyghurs living in Xinjiang.

  • That report included information from Tech Transparency Project.
  • The suppliers implicated ranged from those that make various tech components to a company that supplies uniforms for retail workers.
  • Apple denied the allegation, telling The Information that it “found no evidence of forced labor anywhere we operate."

What they're saying: "Overall, Apple seems unable or unwilling to conduct basic due diligence research on its partners, or to acknowledge its repeated use of forced labor in China," the Tech Transparency Project says in its complaint, a copy of which was seen by Axios. "Customs and Border Protection must spur Apple and other companies doing business in China to respect the rights of Uyghurs."

The big picture: Apple is not unique. Much of the tech industry sources its products from China, including Facebook, Google and Amazon — and other companies have made use of the same suppliers as Apple.

Go deeper: Apple lobbied Congress on bill targeting slave labor in China

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