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U.S. May Ban Cotton From Xinjiang Region of China Over Human Rights Concerns

The Trump administration is weighing towards a ban on some or all products made with cotton from the controversial Xinjiang region in China, a move that could come very soon as the US is looking to punish Beijing over human rights violations in the Xinjiang province. This ban could potentially impact a wide range of clothing apparel and other products that come out of the province. This ban comes as a response to the alleged use of forced labor in the province, where China has systematically and operationally repressed the Uighur minority, which includes and not limited to a campaign of mass detentions.

The scope of this ban is unclear, including whether or not it will cover all cotton products shipped from Xinjiang or China, or potentially extend to items that contain Xinjiang cotton and are shipped from other countries.

Any move to block cotton imports could have major effects on global apparel makers. Xinjiang is a major source of cotton, textiles, petrochemicals and many other goods that are used as inputs in Chinese factories. Many big names in the clothing industry rely on supply chains that extend into china, including cotton and textiles produced in Xinjiang.

Multiple reports have documented how many Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang have been recruited into programs that “assign” them work in factories, cotton farms, textile mills and menial jobs in urban areas.

Since the election campaign, Trump has taken a harder stance on China, blaming Beijing for allowing the coronavirus to spread around the world and ravage the American economy. The Trump administration has steadily ramped up its pressure on the Chinese government in recent months, placing sanctions on multiple companies and individuals over the alleged human rights violations.

Amid a prolonged trade war and rising tensions between both the economic superpowers, companies have looked towards relocating apparel supply chains to countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Some have found China's quality production hard to replicate or have faced cutthroat competition for factory space.

The measure has called for a withhold release order, which would be issued by US Customs and Border Protection. The agency has issued such bans in the past but against individual companies which it had only suspected of using forced labor in Xinjiang, but it has been weighing for more action against a broader category of goods. Customs and Border Protection has not issued a statement regarding this.

In July, several companies were put under a blacklist that prevented them from buying American products, reason being their alleged use of forced labor in Xinjiang. The list included multiple suppliers or former suppliers to major international brands which pushed back against these measures, stating that they had no evidence whatsoever of such shady dealings in Xinjiang.

Companies bought up in this debate over whether their products are made with the help of forced labor say that the completely opaque levels of Chinese supply chains make it very difficult to trace where their cotton is coming from.

Reporter: Jovan H

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