Bipartisan Leaders of the U.S. House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party have written a Letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Urging Immediate Strengthening of Enforcement of the ‘Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.
On Monday, January 22, bipartisan leaders of the U.S. House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party sent a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security, urging immediate action to strengthen enforcement of the “Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act” (UFLPA).
Chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher, and the chief Democratic member of the committee, Raja Krishnamoorthi, stated that recent reports reveal companies in the People’s Republic of China profiting from forced Uyghur labor have not been included in the entity list established by the law. They expressed concerns that third-party transfers of products produced through forced labor have not been adequately prosecuted and deterred. Moreover, Chinese companies increasingly exploit the “de minimis” clause to ship products involving forced labor to the United States. These reports raise doubts about the effective enforcement of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.
The Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2021, came into effect in June 2022. The law prohibits the entry of forced labor products from Xinjiang into the United States. It establishes a “Rebuttable Presumption” principle, assuming that products from Xinjiang contain forced labor unless the U.S. government certifies otherwise.
The enforcement of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act is carried out through a cross-agency special task force within the U.S. government. The government has created an entity list that includes entities involved in the forced labor production of goods or commodities in Xinjiang. The initial list identified 20 such entities, and it has since expanded by 50%. To enforce the law, the U.S. government has identified key areas of scrutiny and enforcement, such as textiles, tomatoes, and polysilicon.
Customs and Border Protection officials report that since the law’s enforcement in June 2022, they have prevented over 6,000 shipments worth over $2 billion in actions to enforce the law.
On the other hand, analysts point out that under current U.S. regulations, “de minimis” packages sent to individual consumers with a value below $800 can enter the United States duty-free with minimal information requirements. E-commerce companies headquartered outside the U.S., such as China’s Pinduoduo and Shein, often ship bulk goods directly to U.S. consumers from overseas, making it challenging for such “de minimis” shipments to be constrained by the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.
In their letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the two representatives called for the following actions:
Strengthen enforcement against goods shipped directly or indirectly from the People’s Republic of China that may violate the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act. These steps should include:
Adding overseas companies profiting from Uyghur forced labor to the entity list established by the Act.
Significantly increasing the inspection of goods at entry ports for potential violations of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.
Improved disclosure of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement activities to deter future violations.
Enhanced collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, to better prosecute and penalize violators of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.
Appointment of a senior official within the Department of Homeland Security to lead and coordinate enforcement efforts of the Act.
Evaluate the potential impact of modifying regulations related to “de minimis” qualifications for textile and other high-risk items on the enforcement of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act. This includes determining whether certain high-risk items should be granted “de minimis” exceptions to prevent illegal imports.
The representatives highlighted several factors that they believe “seriously impact” the effective enforcement of the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act. One factor is companies transferring forced labor products from Xinjiang to other regions within China, necessitating the urgent inclusion of companies and entities outside Xinjiang on the list. They also noted that Beijing has increased activities to ship goods to the United States through third countries, including countries with free trade agreements with the U.S. Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi stated,
“Without increased enforcement against trade offenders, companies will continue to flagrantly violate the Preventing Forced Uyghur Labor Act.”
The two representatives requested Secretary Mayorkas to provide a written response to the listed issues in their letter by March 1.