US lawmakers were told by the head of a major apparel industry group that a blanket import bans on cotton or other products from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labour concerns would be impossible to enforce.
Stephen Lamar, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said his industry is working hard to root out products made with forced labour but said the implementation would “wreak havoc” on legitimate supply chains.
Lamar told a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing a blanket import ban on all cotton from Xinjiang proposed earlier this month would be impossible to enforce, as would banning imports of other products from Xinjiang unless proven free of forced labour.
US Customs and Border Protection on Monday announced five Withhold Release Orders (WROs) banning imports from specific producers of cotton, textiles, apparel, hair products and computer parts in Xinjiang but refrained from a broad bans on all cotton and tomatoes from the region.
“Such a WRO or legislation would no doubt make headlines, but they would wreak havoc on human rights, economic development and legitimate supply chains, themselves already battered by COVID-19 all over the world,” Lamar said.
“As a country, we simply do not have the capability or capacity to implement or comply with or enforce a blanket WRO or the proposed legislation right now.”
He said Xinjiang produces about 20 per cent of all cotton consumed in the world, and fibres from the region are often co-mingled with cotton grown in the United State and elsewhere.
Xinjiang cotton also is exported to other apparel producing countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia and there is no technology available to trace cotton origin with reasonable accuracy. (Source: CNA)