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United States blocks key exports from Xinjiang in China under forced labour allegations

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The United States has moved to block key exports from Xinjiang area of China due to the use of forced labour allegations. The ban will include cotton and tomato products which are the two largest commodity exports of China. President Donald Trump and his administration have been mounting pressure on Beijing against its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China. Thousands of Uyghur people have been illegally detained in so-called “re-education camps” for minor charges. Recently China has increased security protocols in the region citing terrorism and separatism threats.

Currently, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is drafting Withhold Release Orders that will hold and detain shipments coming from Xinjiang area on suspicion of usage of forced labour. The United States is aiming to tackle human trafficking and human rights violations and abuse through this law.

Lawmakers in the US had proposed earlier in the year legislation that would assume all products made in Xinjiang to be an outcome of forced labour and to gain entry into the country would require a certification that they haven’t been produced through forced labour.

Beijing and Washington have had many scuffles over the high-security detention camps in the region. China maintains they aren’t. CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith said, “We have reasonable but not conclusive evidence that there is a risk of forced labour in supply chains related to cotton textiles and tomatoes coming out of Xinjiang.” She added, “We will continue to work our investigations to fill in those gaps.”

The proposed bans can have great implications on US retailers, clothing lines and food producers. China holds 20% of the world’s cotton market that comes from Xinjiang area. Apart from cotton petrochemicals also comes from here which is used in Chinese factories. This week Disney’s new movie Mulan also received backlash after being shot in the Xinjiang province. The movie was already facing a boycott after its lead actress allegedly supported the crackdown on Hong Kong protesters.

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