Forced labor in China is currently being targeted by the Trump Administration, according to a press release from the Department of Homeland Security.
US Customs and Border Protection issued a series of Withhold Release Orders on various goods, preventing them from entering the country from known forced labor areas. DHS reported:
“By taking this action, DHS is combating illegal and inhumane forced labor, a type of modern slavery, used to make goods that the Chinese government then tries to import into the United States. When China attempts to import these goods into our supply chains, it also disadvantages American workers and businesses,” said Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. “President Trump and this Department have, and always will, put American workers and businesses first and protect American citizens from participating in these egregious human rights violations.”
Apple and Nike, both who have a public history of using China to exploit labor, are reportedly watching the situation but currently unaffected. As the BBC reported:
Nike said it was “conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential risks related to employment of Uighur or other ethnic minorities”.
It said it does not source materials directly from Xinjiang, the region in western China that is home to much of the country’s Uighur population and many of the factories said to use the labour.
Apple also said it had investigated the claims. “We have found no evidence of any forced labour on Apple production lines and we plan to continue monitoring,” the firm said.
Some of you may recall that Apple was involved with a scandal involving high rates of suicide among the labor force assembling iPhones in China. Nike has also been fighting allegations and investigations since the 1970’s, though somehow still managing to grow into the mammoth corporation it is today.
The announcement from DHS is still sure to have an impact on consumers in the US. Hair products, computer parts, apparel, and cotton all mentioned in the Withhold Release Orders, this will have a wide ranging impact on manufacturing. However, inhibiting forced labor in China certainly seems worth the cost.