U.S. Apparel Trade Associations Condemn Forced Labor in China

Leading apparel trade associations in the United States recently made a joint statement condemning forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. The group also stressed that it is a priority to guarantee that products made by forced labor do not appear in U.S. supply chains.

Signing the joint statement was the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Fashion Industry Association. The statement was part of a larger call to action made last week, where more than 180 organizations from across the world urged clothing brands to sever ties with producers who use cotton and yarn from the Uyghur region.

According to the Uyghur Human Rights Project, based in Washington D.C., the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from Xinjiang in forced-labor camps. It’s a campaign to erase Uyghur culture, according to Omer Kanat, executive director of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.

“Global brands need to ask themselves how comfortable they are contributing to a genocidal policy against the Uyghur people,” Kanat said. “These companies have somehow managed to avoid scrutiny for complicity in that very policy—this stops today.”

The joint statement distributed by the AAFA and its sibling organizations said that it hoped to work with a broad-based coalition of groups to bring justice.

“We again urge our nation’s leaders to immediately establish a multi-stakeholder working group to develop and deploy a collective approach that accurately assesses the problem, identifies constrictive solutions to increase transparency, and protects both the rights of workers and the integrity of global supply chains,” read the statement.

On July 1, the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Treasury, U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S Department of Homeland Security issued a business advisory cautioning businesses on working with groups that rely on labor and goods sourced in Xinjiang.