No products in the cart.
LONDON – Britain should take a much tougher stance on trade with China through import bans to protect against forced labor and urge its companies to boycott advertising at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a new report from UK lawmakers.
This should extend to financial sanctioning of companies that knowingly do business with Chinese companies linked to human rights abuses in their supply chains, MPs on the bipartisan foreign affairs committee say.
“If we decide against it, we will nest the dragon deeper and deeper in our national life,” said Tom Tugendhat, conservative chairman of the committee. The British public had the expectation that Britain would work for the “defense of the rule of law” and “fair competition in trade”.
The report focuses on China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim population in the country’s Xinjiang province. The US calls this treatment “genocide”. Uyghur activists say China controls the population there through rape, forced sterilization, brainwashing in camps and the demolition of mosques.
Britain can fight these abuses, argues the report, by using trade as a foreign policy tool. In the year to the end of the first quarter of 2021, the two countries traded a total of £ 84.6 billion in goods and services, making China one of the UK’s top five trading partners with a single country.
MPs are calling on the government to consider an “import ban on all cotton products” from Xinjiang, a source of much of the world’s cotton and an important hub for global supply chains.
“We call cotton special because we know we have absolute clarity.” It is made by Uighur forced labor, said Conservative MP Alicia Kearns. She said the committee wanted “all provincial products to be banned.”
There are also “big problems” with polysilicon, as around 40 percent of the solar modules imported for British projects in Xinjiang are manufactured by companies associated with forced labor, said Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance for China (IPAC.). ) – a coalition of democratic lawmakers working on China issues.
There are also concerns about tomatoes, PPE and cotton, added de Pulford, “not to mention tech giants serving Britain who are involved in the exploitation of Uyghurs”.
Such a ban would be in line with World Trade Organization rules that exclude goods from slave labor states, Tugendhat told POLITICO during a briefing ahead of the report’s release. “There is already a human rights provision that can be exercised,” he said.
The report also calls on the government to discourage UK companies from sponsoring or advertising at the Olympics – an issue that is due to be debated in the House of Commons next Thursday.
The committee urges the UK Department of Commerce to publish an urgent review of Xinjiang’s export controls. The exercise was ordered by Foreign Minister Dominic Raab in January to “prevent the export of goods that could directly or indirectly contribute to human rights abuses in this region”, but has yet to see the light of day.
“We have no import controls whatsoever to prevent goods from the Uyghur region from reaching our shelves,” said de Pulford, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice claim on the contrary.
The committee is calling for fines for companies that fail to comply with the UK’s existing Modern Slavery Act, as well as new laws that will force companies to remove slave labor from their supply chains.
“We support the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee to require companies to prevent and respond to abuse in their supply chains,” said Stephen Russell, policy officer at Trades Union Congress, an umbrella organization for trade unions. “Without them,” he added, “too many companies will look the other way while fundamental rights are violated.”
A Federal Foreign Office spokesman said the government would “carefully examine the results of this report.” The UK, they added, has already “announced measures to ensure that UK organizations through their supply chains are not complicit in these violations”.
But these measures have not been implemented, accuse the MPs. “It’s time for big boys politics,” said Kearns, the Conservative lawmaker. “If we don’t stand up for it [China] want to silence who will do it? “
Do you want more analysis of POLITICS? POLITICS Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to commerce, technology, cybersecurity, and more, Pro offers the real-time intelligence, deep insights, and breakthrough insight you need to stay one step ahead. E-mail [email protected] to request a free trial.