The White House was expected to unveil the ban yesterday but a formal announcement has been delayed until later this week because of “scheduling issues”. The cotton and tomato bans, along with five other import bans over alleged human rights violations against Xinjiang’s Uighur muslims, is an unprecedented move by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
And it has further stoked sky-high tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the ban was a pretext to oppress Chinese customers and incite instability in Xinjiang.
He told a daily news conference Washington had “no right or qualification to intervene”.
The CBP’s Withhold Release Orders allow officials to seize shipments based on suspicion of forced-labour involvement under long-standing US laws aimed at combating human trafficking, child labour and other human rights abuses.
Donald Trump’s administration is ramping up pressure on China over its treatment of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.
The United Nations has said it has credible reports that a million Muslims have been detained in camps and put to work.
China denies mistreatment of the Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.
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CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith said the import bans would apply to the entire supply chains involving cotton, cotton yarn, textiles and apparel, as well as tomatoes, tomato paste and other products exported from the region.
She said: “We have reasonable but not conclusive evidence that there is a risk of forced labour in supply chains related to cotton textiles and tomatoes coming out of Xinjiang.
“We will continue to work our investigations to fill in those gaps.”
Ms Smith said US law required CBP to detain shipments when there is an allegation of forced labour.
The CBP orders will also block imports of products made at the Lop County Industrial Park as well as the Lop County November 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center.
The moves follow the July 1 seizure of hair extensions and other goods from the Lop County Meixin Hair Product Co.
Computer parts made by the Hefei Bitland Information Technology Co, based in Anhui, China, will also be banned under the order.
The US State Department has written to top companies including Walmart, Apple and Amazon warning them over risks faced from maintaining supply chains associated with human rights abuses in Xinjiang.