Biden Signs Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act – Businesses Have Six Months to Prepare

Workers in Chinese Factory w/ Barbed Wire (Photo Courtesy of the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region)

Trade Update • DECEMBER 30, 2021

President Joe Biden last week signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R. 6256), setting the stage for the imposition of new restrictions on goods from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region over concerns about forced labor.

The legislation is part of the pushback against Beijing’s treatment of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority, which Washington has labeled genocide. The bill passed Congress after lawmakers reached a compromise between House and Senate versions.

Key to the legislation is a “rebuttable presumption” that assumes all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor. It bars imports unless it can be proven otherwise.

Under the law, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, within 180 days, will automatically presume that all goods from the Xinjiang region are banned under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the import of goods made with forced labor. Importers can only rebut the presumption with “clear and convincing evidence,” according to the legislation.

Enforcement Strategy Development

The law also calls for the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, which was created with implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, to solicit public comment on how to best ensure goods made with forced labor from Chinese persecuted groups are not imported by the United States.

The comment period will last at least 45 days and will be followed by a public hearing to hear testimony on potential prevention and enforcement measures. Certain goods — such as cotton, tomatoes, and polysilicon used in solar-panel manufacturing — have already been banned and are designated “high priority” for future enforcement action.

Canadian Implications

The risk to Canadian businesses of such goods entering the supply chain was illustrated recently by cases in which national retailers were found to be selling garments allegedly made with forced labor in Chinese factories or using tomato products harvested and manufactured in China by Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities under oppressive working conditions.

Next Steps

Using information ascertained from public comments and the hearing, the task force is mandated to develop a strategy to enforce the U.S. government’s import ban on goods made with forced labor, particularly those from China. The strategy is due prior to June 21, 2022.


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