US LEGISLATION BANNING the import of products made in Xinjiang unless the importer can prove the product was not created with forced labour went into effect today.
The Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act was passed last December and presumes that goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labour. That flips on its head the burden of proof required under existing US bans on importing products made with forced labour.
The act has been roundly condemned by Beijing.
Given the near impossibility of US importers verifying their Xinjiang supply chains on the ground as independent auditors are being denied access, the law will become as good as a blanket ban. How it is implemented, particularly the rigour with which US authorities pursue the diffusion of Xinjiang products throughout supply chains in the rest of China and the region, will determine how dampening the blanket is on trade.
Xinjiang produces more than 90% of China’s cotton, which is used by the textile and apparel industries across the country. Thus the impact of the law will be widespread in those sectors.
According to the South China Morning Post, stocks of unsold cotton are piling up at Xinjiang mills as US importers get their supply chains into compliance. With the next harvest less than three months away, half the cotton harvested last autumn has yet to be sold.
Xinjiang is also a grower of tomatoes for export and a producer of solar-grade polysilicon and electronics components.
The act will further harm China-US relations, regardless of any cosmetic changes the Biden administration may make to Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports of consumer goods, semi-manufactures and raw materials.