In a landmark punishment of China over accused genocide and the country's forced labor of Uyghurs, the Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill to prohibit the importation of goods made in China’s Xinjiang region.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act heads to President Joe Biden’s desk, and he is expected to sign the bill. It bans the importation of products made in the area where “re-education” camps for Uyghur Muslims have been built unless companies can show “clear and convincing evidence” that the products were not made with forced labor.
Major international corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nike reportedly lobbied against the bill, arguing that the requirements could harm supply chains.
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“If you're a company who is manufacturing in that area, you’re going to need to prove that slaves didn't make it. The presumption is on you,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on the House floor ahead of the bill’s passage.
“It's already illegal, by the way, to bring goods made with slave labor; it's been that way since the 1930s. And yet, it's still happening,” Rubio added. “And we know it's happening at an alarming, horrific rate with the genocide that we now witness being carried out by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang region.”
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Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Chris Murphy of Connecticut had previously blocked the legislation from passing by unanimous consent, with Murphy arguing that nominations being blocked by Republicans would need to be confirmed in order to implement the legislation and Wyden wanting to propose a yearlong extension to the child tax credit.
An agreement was reached to pass the bill after Murphy secured a confirmation vote Thursday on Biden's nominee to be ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, and other State Department nominees.