During the week of January 11, the UK and Canadian governments condemned Uyghur forced labor in Xinjiang, warning businesses not to import goods from the region.

The statements show that federal governments around the globe are taking the situation in Xinjiang seriously, and will continue to introduce new policies to mitigate human rights issues. Analysts expect more jurisdictions to release similar guidance, which should have a positive impact on the work environment for Uyghurs. The UK measures include:

  • A review of export controls to ensure the UK government is doing all it can to prevent human rights violations.
  • Financial penalties for organizations that fail to meet their reporting obligations under the UK Modern Slavery Act.
  • Guidance for businesses performing due diligence with at-risk suppliers.
  • Support for UK public bodies to use public procurement rules to exclude Xinjiang suppliers.

Meanwhile, Canadian companies must:

  • Avoid importing goods from Xinjiang into Canada if they have been produced wholly or in part by forced labor.
  • Make a Xinjiang Integrity Declaration (XID), stating they are aware of and have introduced measures to navigate the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
  • Refrain from exporting technology or other products that can be used in the repression of Uyghurs.

The Canadian government also issued an XUAR-specific business advisory providing due diligence best practices for companies.

Because the risk of human rights violations in Xinjiang is so high, companies importing products from these regions into the UK and Canada are being advised to find another supplier, unless they can prove the goods are not associated with forced labor. This means performing due diligence specifically for XUAR forced labor.

“Without human trafficking and slavery due diligence, you won’t know if your goods were made with XUAR forced labor — until they’re withheld by customs.” — Abiola Okpechi

UK & Canada Not First Regions to Look at Xinjiang

As a result of the statements, companies in the UK and Canadian markets will begin to see their shipments face new scrutiny, but they aren’t the first governments to look at Xinjiang. The U.S. market already has a similar ban in place, and billions of dollars worth of withhold release orders (WROs) have been issued as a result.

The new presidential administration isn’t expected to alter the ban. In fact, the U.S. may increase safeguards as it solidifies Uyghur Human Rights Act requirements and passes the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill that enjoys bipartisan support in Congress.

On January 19, Antony Blinken, the newly sworn in U.S. Secretary of State, showed support for enforcement against forced labor in Xinjiang with the U.S. Senate.

“I think we should be looking at making sure that we are not importing products that are made with forced labor from Xinjiang … we need to make sure that we’re also not exporting technologies and tools that could be used to further their repression. That’s one place to start,” he said.

Learn how Assent can cost-effectively engage your suppliers to mitigate the risk of Xinjiang forced labor, so you can take your products to market on time.

Evaluating Suppliers for Xinjiang Forced Labor

The situation is Xinjiang is dire. Businesses that place products on the market in the U.S., UK, and Canada should all begin evaluating their supplier data for links to the region. This means performing due diligence for a range of human trafficking and slavery indicators, including country of origin.

The world’s largest companies choose the Slavery and Trafficking Risk Template (STRT) to gather information from their suppliers; it’s streamlined to acquire exactly the data you need to show stakeholders your goods weren’t sourced from the region.

Assent can automate your STRT sendouts, validate the responses, and show your progress from intuitive business intelligence dashboards. This will allow you to quickly review a supplier’s risk, in compliance with new legislation banning forced labor in Xinjiang.

Assent’s Human Trafficking and Slavery solution provides the enhanced due diligence you need to keep these goods out of your products.

To learn more about how Assent can help maintain market access, protect brand reputation, and mitigate the risk of fines or recalls, send us a line.

Dr. Abiola Okpechi
Regulatory & Sustainability Expert, ESG & Responsible Sourcing

Abiola supports companies in their efforts to integrate human rights into corporate risk management frameworks and supply chain risk analysis. Prior to joining Assent, she worked as a consultant, providing  Read More

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