The Trump Administration has announced a ban on all cotton and tomato products from western China’s Xinjiang region over alleged forced labor issues from detained Uighur Muslims.
In a statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said, the order applies to raw fibers, apparel and textiles made from Xinjiang-grown cotton, as well as canned tomatoes, sauces, seeds and other tomato products from the region, even if processed or manufactured in third countries.
According to its estimate, cotton products worth around $9 billion and tomato products worth around $10 million were imported from China into the United States in the last year.
During a news briefing, DHS acting deputy secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said, the order sends a message to importers that “DHS will not tolerate forced labor of any kind”; companies will have to remove Xinjiang products from their supply chains.
The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to levy economic penalties against Beijing’s move to economically leverage the use of modern concentration camps at Xinjiang and artificially lower prices of products coming from these facilities. It is to be seen how U.S. President-elect Joe Biden addresses these issues once he takes office on January 20.
Of significant importance is that these efforts are bipartisan. Earlier in December 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bipartisan effort, which assumes that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and therefore banned, unless CBP certifies otherwise.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has been weighing a determination as to whether forced labor in Xinjiang constitutes an “atrocity” which amounts to “genocide”. The Biden Administration will have to weigh the lives of millions of Uighurs who are condemned to work in modern concentration camps against appeasing China and not levying economic penalties for such atrocities.
The United Nations has cited, what it says are credible reports, that 1 million Muslims are being held in camps and are being put to work in Xinjiang along with faith leaders, activist groups and others all of which amount to crimes against humanity, including genocide, much akin to a modern version of Hitler’s concentration camps.
China has described these camps as being vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.