On July 14, the U.S. Senate passed, by voice vote, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. In a press release, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the sponsors, said that this legislation "will ensure that goods tainted with the forced labor of Uyghurs, and others, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and by certain entities affiliated with the China Communist Party (CCP) do not enter the U.S. market."
At the outset, the bill explains the policy it is pursuing, noting that: "It is the policy of the United States … to strengthen the prohibition against the importation of goods made with forced labor, including by ensuring that the Government of the People’s Republic of China does not undermine the effective enforcement of section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307), which prohibits the importation of all 'goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country by … forced labor.'” It also says that it is U.S. policy "to lead the international community in ending forced labor practices wherever such practices occur through all means available to the United States Government, including by stopping the importation of any goods made with forced labor, including those goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region."
Turning to the specific actions contemplated, the legislation provides for the following.
First, the legislation calls for the development of a broad U.S. strategy relating to forced labor in Xinjiang. After receiving public comments and holding a hearing, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the United States Trade Representative, the Secretary of State, and the Director of National Intelligence, are to "develop a strategy for preventing the importation into the United States of goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the People’s Republic of China." The legislation specifies a number of elements as part of this strategy, including "[a] comprehensive assessment of the risk of importing goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the People’s Republic of China, including from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or made by Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tibetans, or members of other persecuted groups in any other part of the People’s Republic of China."
Second, the legislation establishes a presumption that goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and should be excluded from the U.S. market. The legislation provides that the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection shall, subject to limited exceptions, "apply a presumption that, with respect to any goods, wares, articles, and merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China or produced by an entity on a [required list,] (1) the importation of such goods, wares, articles, and merchandise is prohibited under section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1307); and (2) such goods, wares, articles, and merchandise are not entitled to entry at any of the ports of the United States."
Third, the legislation calls for a diplomatic strategy to address these issues. In this regard, it states: "Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in coordination with the heads of other appropriate Federal agencies, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes a United States strategy to promote initiatives to enhance international awareness of and to address forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China."
And fourth, it calls for sanctions relating to forced labor in Xinjiang by amending the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 to include "[s]erious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor."
The Senate bill was based on a number of findings related to the treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, including the following: "Forced labor, a severe form of human trafficking, exists within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’s system of mass internment camps, and throughout the region, and is confirmed by the testimony of former camp detainees, satellite imagery, and official leaked documents from the Government of the People’s Republic of China as part of a targeted campaign of repression of Muslim ethnic minorities."
In order for this legislation to become law, the House of Representatives must now pass its own version. It is not yet clear when that might happen, but a similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in February of this year.