The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is Now Up and Running

By Matthew McMullan
Jun 21 2022 |
Freight trains in Xinjinang rail yard. Getty Images

The law requires importers to prove their products aren’t made by forced labor in Xinjiang has gone into effect.

Good news for people who like “the U.S. government has actually done something about deeply unfair and morally repugnant trade with China” news: Today’s the day the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) goes into effect.

 The UFLPA bars the import of any goods made in Xinjiang, the province in China’s far west where the Chinese government is, uh, re-educating the native Uyghur population and other Muslim ethnic groups. In addition to bulldozing mosques and graveyards, there is a pile of evidence showing the government is forcing these people into factories and into the fields to work for brands that sell their goods around the world.

Cotton, car batteries, solar panels, vinyl flooring – international supply chains for a remarkable number of products run through Xinjiang, which creates serious problems for consumers who wish to purchase products that aren’t made with forced labor.

But with the UFLPA now in effect, that’s not the American consumer’s problem anymore. The law puts the onus on manufacturers in Xinjiang and importers to prove their product or anything in it is not made with such labor.

And that’s a real big deal! Because before it was eventually passed with overwhelming majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate and President Biden signed it into law in December, there were a lot of moral champions in the business community who fought to kill this legislation.

It didn’t work. So now, six months later, the UFLPA goes into effect. And that means if companies want to sell products in the American market that were either wholly made in – or include inputs from – what’s effectively a police state dotted by labor camps, they better have their supply chain documentation in order.

Now it falls to the Biden administration to enforce this law, because it’s suspected that business lobbies with significant economic interests in Xinjiang will take runs at weakening it. Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

“Despite widespread bipartisan consensus and overwhelming evidence that forced labor is taking place, we can expect importers will work to weaken this new law. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given their 20-year exploitation of China’s workers and environment. But that doesn’t mean we should listen to them.

The Dispatch has a big deep-dive explainer into how this bill became law. Read the first part here.