Five key fashion trade groups called upon the U.S. government to develop a “collective approach” to understand and address the problem of forced labor in Xinjiang.
The issue brings together the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Fashion Industry Association.
“We are deeply concerned by reports of forced labor and the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority workers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China. The reported situation is of a scale, scope and complexity that is unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains,” a group statement said.
The conditions in Xinjiang and the treatment of ethnic minority workers are widely held concerns and the group said, “Accepting the status quo is not an option.”
But the trade groups said forced labor in Xinjiang was an issue the industry could not solve on its own.
“A successful solution for all, including the workers, will require state-to-state engagement and collaborative partnerships across government, industry, labor advocates, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders,” the statement said.
The group urged the U.S. government “to immediately engage a multi-stakeholder working group to develop and deploy a collective approach that accurately assesses the problem, and find constructive solutions that target bad actors and protect the rights of workers and the integrity of global supply chains.”
In October, the AAFA expressed its concern over reports that forced labor had become a part of the Chinese government’s efforts to “reeducate” Muslim minorities.
That followed the release of a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled “Connecting the Dots in Xinjiang: Forced Labor, Forced Assimilation, and Western Supply Chains.”
The report claimed the Chinese government detained and “reeducated” more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang, which produces more than 80 percent of China’s cotton.
More recently, concerns have risen that the issue of forced labor in China could worsen as the manufacturing sector there seeks to reboot after coronavirus-related shutdowns.