The US and Japan have announced the formation of a task force aimed at protecting human rights in supply chains amid concerns about China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region which produces a fifth of the world’s cotton.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade, and Industry, Nishimura Yasutoshi, signed a memorandum of cooperation to launch the Task Force on the Promotion of Human Rights and International Labor Standards in Supply Chains.
They also invited other governments to join them and hosted a roundtable with Japanese business representatives on preventing the use of forced labour in supply chains.
Tai commented: “The launch of this task force is another example of how trade can be a force for good throughout the world. Developing new tools that bring together the combined expertise of agencies across the governments of the United States and Japan will help contribute to tackling worker exploitation in global supply chains.
“The United States and Japan cannot do this alone. To make this work, we must partner with all relevant stakeholders – worker organisations, businesses, and civil society – to bring about lasting and meaningful change. We must also invite other governments to join us as we push ahead to safeguard the dignity of workers everywhere.”
More than a million Uyghur Muslims have been imprisoned in the Xinjiang region of China where many are allegedly used as forced labour in the cotton industry.
The collaboration between the US and Japan is expected to include information-sharing on reporting, best practices and enforcement practices, as well as dialogue with other stakeholders, including businesses.
The roundtable with Japanese business leaders highlighted the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) role in enforcing the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) which bans imports of products produced in Xinjiang on the presumption they were made with forced labour.
The task force, which will meet bi-annually, will be chaired by Tai and Yasutoshi and be composed of their respective agencies as well as Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the US Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, and State.