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CPA Asks Congress to Broaden China Forced Labor Import Bans

December 07, 2020

This CPA letter to Chairmen Neal, Blumenauer and Pascrell commends them on their recent comments regarding the need for stronger action to compact the Chinese Communist Party's rampant use of forced labor.

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Dear Chairmen Neal, Blumenauer, and Pascrell:

We write today to commend your recent comments regarding the need for stronger action to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s rampant use of forced labor. Forced labor has no place in our society and we agree that more must be done to end this inhumanity.  

We also agree that while the Withhold Release Order (“WRO”) against Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps was a positive step, the use of WROs against particular business entities is insufficient and places an impossible burden on U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) that they cannot possibly police and effectively enforce.

That is why instead of WROs against specific businesses – CBP should issue country-wide WROs. This would be a much more effective strategy to combat the systemic problems of forced labor in China.

These human rights violations of forced labor are facilitated by China’s central government – and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found earlier this year that, “the Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country.”[1] This sort of forced labor allocation should sound the alarm bells for our policymakers on trade.

Not only is a country-wide approach necessary – but there is precedent for such action from CBP. For example, in 2018, CBP issued an order against “all Turkmenistan Cotton or products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton”. One year ago, it banned “all products containing tobacco produced in Malawi.”[2] Just because China is larger than Turkmenistan or Malawi – doesn’t mean our principles on human rights should quiver.

Finally, country-wide trade enforcement efforts are used in other contexts. When a foreign government subsidizes an industry that exports to the United States, countervailing duties are available to apply against all relevant subsidized-goods from that country, regardless of the producer or shipper. A foreign government aiding and abetting ongoing forced labor is, at a minimum, a form of “subsidy” and a similar approach should be taken.

With respect to China in particular, the State Department’s recent work examining the use of forced labor there specifically noted Beijing’s practice of subsidizing forced labor activities.[3]

Under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) tariff preference program, we also eliminate entire classes of goods – regardless of producer – when the foreign country fails to take action against forced labor issues. This happened in 2019, where Thailand lost billions in tariff benefits due to a petition by the AFL-CIO, which in part alleged forced labor practices in the country.

If Congress wants to seriously end the practice of forced labor in China, then it needs to call on CBP to issue country wide WROs and use every tool available to see that the Chinese Communist Party’s program of forced labor is ended. Thank you for raising the profile of this important issue. We would be happy to discuss these matters in more detail.

Sincerely, 

Daniel DiMicco, Chairman

Michael Stumo, CEO


[1]  Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, Danielle Cave, James Leibold, Kelsey Munro and Nathan Ruser, “Uyghurs for Sale,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 1, 2020, https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale.

[2] CBP, Withhold Release Orders and Findings, https://www.cbp.gov/trade/programs-administration/forced-labor/withhold-release-orders-and-findings

[3] https://www.state.gov/chinas-disregard-for-human-rights/#ForcedLaborandSubparLaborStandards

Letter to Government