Apr 17, 2024 - World

House Reps urge crack down on companies benefiting from Chinese forced labor

Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., right, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., talk with reporters

Reps. Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi talk with reporters in the U.S. Capitol on March 13. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Two House members urged the State Department Wednesday to step up its diplomatic efforts to ensure companies that benefit from the forced labor of Uyghurs in China can't access global markets.

Why it matters: The U.S. has sought to crack down on companies believed to be complicit in the Chinese government's human rights abuses towards Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang province.

  • Now, the leaders of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party are calling for the U.S. to get allies on board as well.

The big picture: Last month, the European Council and European Parliament struck a provisional deal to ban products made with forced labor from being imported into the EU market.

  • Yet the select committee has learned that certain EU members are considering voting against the ban, committee chair Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday.
  • Failing to pass the ban would mean products made by Chinese "state-sponsored forced labor programs will continue to have unfettered access to European markets."
  • They will also have a higher likelihood of entering the U.S. via Europe, they added.

State of play: "We therefore urge the State Department to intensify and elevate its global diplomatic efforts to address PRC state-sponsored forced labor programs," the two lawmakers wrote.

  • Initial efforts should "prioritize engagement" with EU partners, including Germany and Italy, ahead of a prospective vote on the import ban.
  • The lawmakers gave the State Department until April 30 to answer a series of questions regarding their efforts to engage allies on the topic.

Zoom out: The U.S. passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) in Dec. 2021, banning all imports from Xinjiang unless companies can prove with "clear and convincing evidence" that the products are not made with forced labor.

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers last year raised calls for increased transparency around the enforcement of UFLPA, following reports that products from Xinjiang were still coming into the U.S.
  • The Trump administration in Jan. 2021 declared China's campaign of mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang to be a genocide.

Go deeper: The scope of forced labor in Xinjiang is bigger than we knew

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