U.S. Warns Again: Companies with Supply Chain or Investment Ties to Xinjiang May Face High Risk of Breaking the Law

The U.S. Department of State on July 13 issued another warning to businesses about the increased risks associated with supply chains and investments in China’s Xinjiang region, citing human rights and forced labor issues in China, and saying that companies and individuals who do not exit supply chains or investments related to Xinjiang are at high risk of violating U.S. law.

The State Department issued an updated version of its “Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory Bulletin” on the same day, saying that China continues to engage in “horrific abuses” (horrific abuses) in Xinjiang and other parts of China, targeting the predominantly Muslim Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other ethnic and religious minorities. These abuses include widespread, state-sponsored forced labor and intrusive surveillance, forced population control measures and separation of children from their families, mass detentions, and other human rights violations in the context of ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. Given the severity and extent of these violations, businesses and individuals who do not exit supply chains, businesses and/or investments associated with Xinjiang may be at high risk of violating U.S. law.

Secretary Blinken said on the same day that the State Department, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Labor, issued an updated Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory in response to the People’s Republic of China government’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and the growing evidence of its use of forced labor in Xinjiang. The updated advisory highlights the heightened risks faced by businesses with supply chain and investment ties to Xinjiang in light of these entities’ involvement in forced labor and other human rights violations in Xinjiang and throughout China. Among other elements, the updated business advisory includes: information from the Department of Labor and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which are now co-signatories; notes that the Chinese government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang; provides specific information on the risks of investing in Chinese companies associated with surveillance and forced labor in Xinjiang; updates the list of U.S. government enforcement actions in and related to Xinjiang; adds information on the silicon and polysilicon supply chain associated with Xinjiang; and providing a list of relevant regulatory requirements and information on forced labor in supply chains in other countries. The United States will continue to promote accountability for Chinese atrocities and other abuses through government efforts, close coordination with the private sector, and our allies and partners.

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Trade Representative Dyche also said the same day, “Today’s action demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ending forced labor around the world, particularly in global supply chains,” Dyche said, “whether through World Trade Organization regulations on fisheries subsidies and the use of forced labor on negotiations on the use of forced labor on fishing vessels, or calling for a ban on state-sponsored forced labor, our worker-centered trade policies will defend workers’ rights and address unfair competition, particularly based on the exploitation of people.”

Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that 25 million workers, including adults and children, are forced to work on any given day. According to the U.S. Department of State and the Department of Labor, multiple studies have documented that more than 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are unjustly held in detention camps within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These studies also indicate that at least 100,000 workers were subjected to forced labor in factories in industrial areas where the camps were located or transferred from Xinjiang to factories in other parts of China.

The G-7 leaders meeting in Cornwall, England, recently tasked G-7 trade ministers with identifying areas for increased cooperation and collective efforts to eliminate all forms of forced labor in global supply chains in advance of the G-7 trade ministers meeting in October 2021. Will continue to play a leadership role in eliminating forced labor, including in Xinjiang, and pursue a trade agenda that protects workers from abuse and exploitation.