Goods Made with Uyghur Forced Labor Still Likely Entering the U.S., Key Congressional Panel Finds

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
May 24 2023 |
A map of the Xinjiang region in China. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act bans all imports from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. due to concerns about forced labor there, but lawmakers say the U.S. needs to do more to shore up enforcement. Getty Images

The Select Committee on the CCP unanimously approved new policy proposals for addressing the Uyghur genocide and tensions in Taiwan.

A number of products “produced or manufactured wholly or in part with Uyghur forced labor may continue to enter the United States” despite new efforts to halt these imports, according to a policy proposal approved Wednesday by the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The panel unanimously approved two policy proposals on Wednesday: One aimed at addressing the ongoing Uyghur genocide and the other at providing support to Taiwan. Because it is a select committee, the panel does not have the authority to advance legislation and is instead charged with developing an action plan for addressing the threats posed by China’s government. Some of those threats directly relate to manufacturing and the U.S. economy; Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul testified about many of them during his testimony before the panel earlier this year, for example.

The committee also has focused its attention on the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, including hosting an emotional hearing in March featuring testimony from survivors. There is growing evidence that Uyghurs and other minority groups are being forced into fields to pick cotton and into factories to make everything from apparel to solar panels to auto parts to vinyl flooring, much of which is shipped to consumers in the West. Dozens of big name brands have been tied to products made with forced labor.

Not only is the widespread use of forced labor in Xinjiang likely a gross human rights violation, but it also has become a trade issue, as the United States enacted a law called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to stop imports made with forced Uyghur labor from reaching U.S. consumers.

While there has been some success in stopping Uyghur-made imports, the Select Committee reports that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) struggles to inspect U.S. imports at the scale necessary to enforce existing laws and regulations on forced labor,” and issued additional recommendations to shore up a more effective response. That includes providing additional resources to the Department of Homeland Security for enforcing the law, such as making “a comprehensive list of all companies complicit in forced labor” and allocating money specifically for “forced labor investigations and improving targeting for inspections.”

The panel also recommended “amending the Tariff Act of 1930 to reduce the de minimis threshold for duty free shipments into the United States with particular focus on foreign adversaries.” The de minimis threshold currently stands at $800, which has allowed a flood of imported goods entering the United States via popular Chinese brands like SHEIN and Temu. These companies are able to circumvent tariffs and the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act by shipping their cheap goods directly to consumers.

In addition, the committee gave his support to the Uyghur Genocide Intelligence Review Act, which would aim to “ensure the timely and effective collection of intelligence relating to the Uyghur genocide and require the Director of National Intelligence to submit an annual report addressing the CCP’s practices in the XUAR relating to forced sterilization, birth control, and abortions; forced transfer of Uyghur children from their families; forced labor of Uyghurs inside and outside of the XUAR; and work conditions of Uyghur laborers with a focus on specific industries highlighted in congressional hearings.”

The committee put forth additional recommendations to help address the Uyghur genocide, including better coordination between the U.S. and its allies; restricting U.S. capital flows to certain companies in China connected to the CCP; outbound investment restrictions; and additional sanctions on CCP officials connected to the genocide.

Read the full policy recommendations for addressing the Uyghur genocide here. Find the policy recommendations on Taiwan here.