MPs call for tough action on China over alleged use of forced labour and recommend import bans

Thu 8 Jul 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

china xinjiang

MPs on the foreign affairs committee have urged the government to act tougher on China, recommending a ban on imports of products manufactured in the Xinjiang region where human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority have been widely reported.

The committee called for bans on a wide range of products, including cotton-based goods and solar panels, that are produced in the region in western China.

It also advised that no government officials should attend the Beijing winter Olympics next year, reports the Guardian.

Too lax

MPs said rules forcing companies to remove forced labour from their supply chains had proved too lax.

They said the government had also failed to sanction Chinese officials and to publish a review which it had promised on UK trade controls relating Xinjiang goods.

They also said that reports of mass incarcerations and connected factories and farms meant “it should be assumed that any product originating from Xinjiang is the product of forced labour”.

Fair competition

Textiles, solar energy, agriculture and electronics were named as goods likely to be manufactured using forced labour in the region.

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the committee, said the public expected that Britain would stand up for “fair competition in trade”, reports Politico.

A trade ban would be in line with World Trade Organization rules barring goods from states that engage in slave labour, according to Tugendhat.

Anti-sanctions bind

Businesses that do business in China will also now need to keep abreast of new regulation in China introduced last month to counter western sanctions, reports Global Trade Review (GTR).

Companies that comply with their government sanctions against China will face increasing scrutiny and action from Beijing, GTR warns.

This could lead to restrictions on doing business, asset freezes or even expulsion from the country. Business may be forced to choose between complying with their own laws and continuing to operate in China.

Trade between the UK and China in the first quarter of 2021 was worth £84.6bn in goods and services, making China one of the UK’s top five trade partners

Trade values

Speaking to the International Trade Committee yesterday, international trade secretary Liz Truss said that human rights abuses, such as those reported in Xinjiang, did have a bearing on UK trade decisions.

Truss said that “trade policy does have to reflect our values” and that “values-free globalisation does not work”, reports the IOE&IT Daily Update.

However, she said that trade embargoes were not always the best approach and could hurt the poorest rather than those violating human rights.