Forced Uighur labour in China: How can companies and shoppers help? | The Stream

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Taking aim at forced labour in China, the United States has enacted a new import ban on products with links to Xinjiang, including cotton. The region is a major manufacturing hub that the U.S. says is built on forced labour and the oppression of the Uighur people.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) took effect this month and will have broad repercussions for US-China trade. The apparel industry is expected to be particularly hard hit, as 20 percent of the world’s cotton comes from China, most of which is grown in Xinjiang.

Major companies including Nike, Adidas and Burberry currently operate in a regulatory and ethical gray zone with their supply chains, leaving shoppers in the dark about whether they were purchasing and wearing shirts, pants, cloth masks and other items that were the result of forced labour. But now, businesses who wish to import apparel into the U.S. must document the entire supply chain.

China has denied oppressing Uighurs, and is threatening to impose its own ban on American imports. But as other countries face pressure to follow the U.S., officials hope China will rethink its approach.

The UFLPA’s passage has renewed the debate about whose responsibility it is to root out forced labour – companies, governments or consumers? In this episode, the Stream takes a look at what the UFLPA means for shoppers and the apparel industry, and the debate over fast fashion.

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