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House unanimously passes Uyghur forced labor bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, speaks to Rep. Jim McGovern. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House on Tuesday evening unanimously voted to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Driving the news: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) reached a compromise agreement earlier on Tuesday on the final legislative text of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed for the first time Tuesday that President Biden will sign the bill.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would send the bill to the Senate for “swift action.”

What they're saying: "We have been clear that we share Congress’ view that action must be taken to hold the [People's Republic of China] accountable for its human rights abuses and to address forced labor in Xinjiang," Psaki said at a press briefing.

  • "We’ve already taken action on the global stage in that regard, leading an effort at the G7, putting in place financial sanctions and Global Magnitsky visa restrictions, and I think that’s evidence of our commitment to this."

Why it matters: The deal marks a major breakthrough in the bipartisan push to punish the Chinese government for what the U.S. has described as a genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

The big picture: The bill would ban all imports from the northwest region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines with "clear and convincing evidence" that the products were not made with forced labor.

  • Major corporations like Nike and Coca Cola have lobbied against the bill, which would have far-reaching consequences for U.S. supply chains deeply integrated with Chinese industry.

  • Xinjiang also accounts for nearly 50% of the world's polysilicon, a raw material used to manufacture solar panels.

Between the lines: The Biden administration has been outspoken about China's campaign of mass detention, surveillance, forced labor and forced sterilization of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, but had previously declined to throw its weight behind the bill.

  • The administration has vehemently denied allegations from Republicans that officials like climate envoy John Kerry have lobbied against the bill to ensure the U.S. can cooperate with China on climate change.

  • Press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Tuesday that the administration had been providing "technical assistance" to ensure the legislation could be implemented.

What to watch: The compromise version of the bill must be passed again in the House and Senate before it can be sent to President Biden's desk for a signature.

  • The Senate unanimously passed Rubio's version of the bill in July, while the House voted 428-1 to pass McGovern's last week.

This story has been updated with House passage of the bill.


(c) 2021, Axios



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