THE NEUTRAL ZONE
Nike, Apple and Coca-Cola are three of the major companies accused of lobbying Congress to weaken a bill designed to stop importing goods made with forced labor coming from China’s Xinjiang region.
China has been under scrutiny over its treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority, especially in regard to Uighurs being sent to forced labor camps. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is under consideration by the Senate after it passed the House in September by a 406-3 margin. Section four of the bill states that anything mined, produced or manufactured in the region would be found in violation of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which outlawed importing goods produced by forced labor.
While many of these companies have stated that they are against forced labor, they also said these proposed restrictions would have a sizable negative impact on their China-dependent supply chains. Coca-Cola representatives told the New York Times that the company hired third-party auditors to enforce their no forced labor policy, and Nike stated that they did not lobby against the bill. Nike objects to accusations of lobbying against the bill, stating that they instead had “constructive discussions” with congressional aides about the subject. Apple has also been accused of attempting to “water down” the bill by congressional staffers who spoke anonymously to the Washington Post.
Nike and Coca-Cola Lobby Against Xinjiang Forced Labor Bill – New York Times – 11/29/2020
Xinjiang produces vast amounts of raw materials like cotton, coal, sugar, tomatoes and polysilicon, and supplies workers for China’s apparel and footwear factories. Human rights groups and news reports have linked many multinational companies to suppliers there, including tying Coca-Cola to sugar sourced from Xinjiang, and documenting Uighur workers in a factory in Qingdao that makes Nike shoes.
Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple among Companies Lobbying against Uyghur Forced Labor Bill – National Review – 11/30/2020
China has attempted to cement state power over millions of Muslim citizens in Xinjiang, mostly Uyghur Muslims along with Kazakhs and other minorities. The ruling Communist Party has placed Uyghurs in so-called reeducation camps that attempt to erase their attachment to Islam, and has also embarked on a campaign of forced sterilization of Uyghur women.
Nike, Apple Are Pushing Back Against China Forced Labor Legislation, Per New York Times – The Fashion Law – 11/30/2020
“Global fashion brands source so extensively from Xinjiang that a coalition [of more than 170 human rights and trade groups] estimates that it is ‘virtually certain’ that as many as one in five cotton products sold across the world are tainted with forced labor and human rights violations occurring there,” the Guardian reported this summer. “Virtually the entire [global] apparel industry” – high fashion and luxury names, included – “is tainted by forced Uighur and Turkic Muslim labor,” in large part due to the difficulty that comes with tracing the origins of garments and their composite parts in multi-national brands’ sweeping supply chains.