At a time when the global supply chain can least afford it, the U.S. is cracking down on products potentially coming from forced labor camps in China.
Starting June 21, a new law is going to ban imported goods that have been partly or wholly made in Xinjiang, unless companies can prove that the products have "no ties to forced labor", according to a Bloomberg report.
The law was passed unanimously by Congress and had "strong support" from unions and activists, the report says.
But the U.S. reportedly "isn’t giving business much of a heads-up about how the measure will be enforced" and it goes into effect in just three weeks. As Bloomberg put it, "nobody really knows how big a chunk of America’s $500 billion-plus in annual imports from China could get ensnared".
While the human rights issue certainly is worth fighting for, the move comes at a time when the U.S. - which stocks a sizable portion of its products from China - is already seeing supply chain shortages and barren store shelves.
Customs and Border Protection said that the law "will likely exacerbate current supply-chain disruptions.” It means that all imports, not just those from China, “will be subject to delays in processing time,” the agency said.
Customs will have to scrutinize an additional 11.5 million shipments a year, more than 10x their previous volume.
Xinjiang has a history of being accused of mass detentions and forced labor, mostly concerning Uyghur Muslims in the areas going through "re-education".
While it has also been illegal to import good made with forced labor, sells must now provide “clear and convincing evidence” that goods suspected to have been produced in Xinjiang were not produced with forced labor.
Ed Brzytwa, vice president of international trade at the Consumer Technology Association, commented: “For the administration to move on to much more complex, value-added goods and detain those goods at the border, that would cause even more supply-chain snarls.”