US forced labor law changes China’s cotton industry

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The U.S. Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) went into effect on June 21. This potentially ambitious legislation prohibits imports made by forced labor into Xinjiang, China, which includes cotton products.

About 90% of Chinese cotton is produced in Xinjiang, and the region has virtually no capacity to prove that forced labor is not used. The situation could lead Chinese textile and garment factories to avoid using raw materials produced in Xinjiang if they wish to export their products, unless the Chinese regime ends slavery in Xinjiang.

In addition, the European Union adopted a resolution on June 9, condemning crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and calling for a restriction on imports of products made by forced labor.

With similar actions in other regions and countries, the effect of the UFLPA will be more powerful in forcing the Chinese regime to stop using forced labor.

UFLPA

The State Department issued a press release stating that it had implemented the UFLPA on June 21.

The State Department pledged to “continue to combat forced labor in Xinjiang and strengthen international coordination against this gross violation of human rights,” the statement read. statement.

The law has been signed into law by US President Joe Biden on December 23, 2021, after approval by US lawmakers. It represents Washington’s significant response to “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” in the Xinjiang region of northwest China.

The State Department reported in its “2021 International Religious Freedom Report: China—Xinjiang,” released June 2, that the White House estimated that the Chinese regime “has detained more than one million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Hui and members of other Muslim groups, as well as some Christians, in purpose-built internment camps or converted detention centers in Xinjiang” since April 2017.

Although Beijing denies any human rights abuses, the State Department said Tuesday: “We are bringing together our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to expose atrocities in Xinjiang and to join us in calling on the PRC government to immediately end atrocities and human rights violations, including forced labor. »

Farmers pick cotton in the fields during the harvest season in Hami, Xinjiang region, northwest China, Sept. 20, 2015. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The UFLPA impacts cotton production in Xinjiang, which impacts Chinese textile companies that use cotton as one of their raw materials. As the Chinese regime proudly claimed, China is the largest textile exporter in the world.

According StatisticalChina exported textiles worth $154 billion in 2020, accounting for 43.5% of the global textile export market.

Xinjiang is suitable for growing cotton due to its vast land and desert climate. The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics published on December 14, 2021, said Xinjiang produced 89.5% of China’s cotton during the year using 82.8% of the country’s total cotton plantation area.

By 2022, Xinjiang’s cotton planting area utilized 86.4 percent of China’s total cotton planting area, meaning its output will share more than 90 percent of the country’s total output, China said. China Cotton Association. reported on May 25 after conducting a nationwide investigation.

Xinjiang is divided north and south by the Tian Shan Mountains. In northern Xinjiang, more than half of the inhabitants belong to the Han ethnic group. Here, farmers plant short-staple cotton, which allows them to use machines to plant and harvest the crop.

In southern Xinjiang, the majority of residents are Uyghurs. The cotton planted there is the long-staple species, which is the best cotton quality in China. However, cotton harvesting relies on hand picking.

Labor costs in Xinjiang are relatively low. Cotton is harvested by hand in southern Xinjiang and partially in northern Xinjiang, which may involve the use of forced labor. In recent years, more and more cotton farmers in northern Xinjiang have started to use machines to harvest the crop. According to chinese diet69.83% of cotton was harvested by machine in 2020.

According to the UFLPA, the exporter, who wants to sell the textile or apparel products in the United States, must present conclusive evidence that no forced labor was involved in the products. Since most textiles and garments are made from cotton, the exporter needs such evidence if the cotton is from Xinjiang.

However, textile industry insiders said there is no independent auditing service in Xinjiang, which means exporters who use Xinjiang cotton cannot verify that their products are free of forced labor.

“The law [UFLPA] will essentially act as a trade embargo against goods with input from Xinjiang,” Doug Barry, vice president of communications and publications for the US-China Business Council, Told South China Morning Post on June 20.

Epoch Times Photo
A Chinese farmer picks cotton in the fields during the harvest season in Hami, Xinjiang region, northwest China, September 20, 2015. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese cotton industry

As the world’s largest textile manufacturer, consumer and exporter, China produced 54.3 million metric tons of fibers in 2017, of which more than 20 million tons were exported to other countries, according to China. Cotton Association (CCA). reported on December 21, 2018.

According to a CCA report, 36.8% of Chinese fibers are exported and the United States is China’s largest importer.

At the same time, China imports cotton from the United States, Brazil, India, Australia and other countries. According to China National Cotton Information Center25% of Chinese cotton used in 2021 was imported, and this percentage will drop to 24% in 2022 due to the high price of cotton in the world market.

To meet the export volume of textiles and garments, China needs to import more cotton because Xinjiang cotton is not qualified to export to the United States.

Impact of the UFLPA

“The UFLPA is great for the Chinese people and the global supply chain,” Wang He, a U.S.-based China affairs commentator, told The Epoch Times on June 22.

Wang believes that all Chinese textile enterprises could not immediately purchase the qualified cotton to make the products for export, but need to catch up as more and more countries and regions will follow the United States and ban the products. forced labor.

“I think EU citizens would be shocked to know that there is not yet a ban on products known to be made with forced labour,” said Laura Murphy, professor of human rights at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK. Told BBC on June 20. “The EU must also be a leader in adopting mandatory human rights due diligence. Both of these tools are necessary to ensure companies address forced labor and other abuses in their supply chains.

Textile industry contributed 11.4% of Chinese exports in 2020, valued at $296 billion, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

“Not being able to use Xinjiang cotton for the textile and garment export industry is a disaster for the regime in Beijing,” Wang said. “The Chinese economy is badly damaged by the regime’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy, as cities are shut down one after another and people are not allowed to work. The regime relies on the textile industry because China’s textile and apparel exports bring in nearly $300 billion every year and contribute more than 50% of China’s trade surplus.

Wang said importers may find it difficult to find alternatives to Chinese-made textiles in the global market for some time. But in the long run, the world will benefit.

“In fact, the UFLPA requires international brands, such as H&M and Nike, to source their original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from other countries. This can diversify the global supply chain and grow the economy of other developing countries.

Epoch Times Photo
Workers install solar panels at a photovoltaic power plant in Hami, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, August 22, 2011. (Chinatopix via AP)

In addition to cotton, polysilicon, a-silicon and amorphous silicon, used in the solar energy industry, will also be affected by UFLPA. According to the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, China counted for 97.3% of the world’s silicon used for solar power in 2021. The state-run Xinjiang Daily reported on Feb. 28 that Xinjiang product 58.9% of Chinese production.

The United States has banned the importation of goods produced by forced labor since 1930, when section 307 of the Tariff Law entered into force. The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announcement on its website the entry into force of the UFLPA and published a operational guidance for importers on June 13.

Nicole Hao

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Nicole Hao is a Washington-based journalist specializing in China-related topics. Prior to joining Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway company in Paris, France.

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