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New US detention orders on Xinjiang cotton and clothing

Sep 15, 2020 (MarketLine via COMTEX) --

Five new Withhold Release Orders (WRO) have been issued on products imported into the United States from China including apparel items and cotton linked to the Xinjiang region where there are concerns over the use of forced labour.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says the products subject to the WROs are "produced with state-sponsored forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where the US believes the government is engaged in systemic human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious minorities."

Apparel produced by Yili Zhuowan Garment Manufacturing Co Ltd and Baoding LYSZD Trade and Business Co Ltd in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is among the product categories targeted.

"Information reasonably indicates that these entities use prison and forced labour in apparel production. CBP identified forced labour indicators including the restriction of movement, isolation, intimidation and threats, withholding of wages, and abusive working and living conditions," reads the WRO.

Cotton produced and processed by Xinjiang Junggar Cotton and Linen Co Ltd in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China is also on the list. 

The orders direct CBP officers at all ports of entry to withhold release on the listed goods.

"By taking this action, DHS is combating illegal and inhumane forced labour, a type of modern slavery, used to make goods that the Chinese government then tries to import into the United States," adds Acting US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli.

"When China attempts to import these goods into our supply chains, it also disadvantages American workers and businesses. President Trump and this Department have, and always will, put American workers and businesses first and protect American citizens from participating in these egregious human rights violations."

The news comes after reports suggested last week that President Trump was mulling a ban on all cotton-made goods from Xinjiang. A coalition of human rights, labour and investor organisations has been urging US authorities to make such a move, arguing that individual WROs are not sufficiently sweeping enough to tackle the problem.

Investors have also been urged to take steps to identify, prevent and mitigate risks in portfolio companies to ensure they have no direct links to human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region.

It is estimated that 80% of China's cotton is produced in the Uyghur region, representing around 22% of the global market in 2018-19, much of which is made into yarn used in textile and apparel produced in the region, and other factories globally. 

A separate withhold release order was issued in August on merchandise containing garments produced by the Hero Vast Group – including Shanghai Hero Vast International Trading Co Ltd, Henan Hero Vast Garment Co Ltd, Yuexi Hero Vast Garment Co Ltd, Ying Han International Co Ltd, and Hero Vast Canada Inc.

Under US law 19 USC 1307 it is illegal for the United States to allow entry of goods, "produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by convict labour or/and forced labour or/and indentured labour."

CBP may issue withhold release orders on goods suspected of being in breach of this rule. Importers of detained shipments then have an opportunity to export their shipments or submit proof to CBP that the merchandise was not produced with forced labour.

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