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Homeland Republicans Hear Testimony on DHS’s Failure to Combat Forced Labor in China 

October 21, 2023

Subcommittee members examine federal enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.—This week, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, led by Chairman Dan Bishop (R-NC), held a hearing to evaluate the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) abuse of the Uyghur people, particularly through the enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). The subcommittee heard testimony from Kimberly Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations; Peter Mattis, the president of the Jamestown Foundation; Louisa Greve, director of global advocacy for the Uyghur Human Rights Project; and Michael Stumo, CEO of Coalition for a Prosperous America.
Witness testimony highlighted the ways in which DHS’s enforcement of the UFLPA falls short in preventing the importation of goods from the Xinjiang region of China into the United States, and the proactive approach DHS must take to combat the exploitation of Uyghur forced labor in China and protect American manufacturers and workers. Witnesses testified to the horrors of the CCP’S abuses against the Uyghur people, the exploitation of loopholes in DHS enforcement, and the negative effects on domestic producers. 

In her opening statement, Ms. Glas emphasized the immediate and pressing need for action in the enforcement of UFLPA:
“American manufacturers, and especially the American textile industry, competes against Chinese companies, the Chinese government and, unfortunately, our own government when we fail to effectively enforce our U.S. trade law. Who in our government would vote to allow China to ship billions each year, uninspected, duty-free to the United States? What a gift. Who would condone the packaging and exploiting of dangerous products to our marketplace, including products like fentanyl? Who would approve of the flooding of our market with subsidized products often made with forced labor? Yet that is the de facto policy of the U.S. government when we take a weak posture towards customs enforcement. An aggressive enforcement plan, coupled with a set of rational revisions to the outdated and now extremely dangerous loopholes in our trade law, would prevent the continuation of this devastation, but Congress and the executive branch need to act now.”

Chairman Bishop inquired as to why certain resources, like isotopic testing, are not being used at a higher frequency by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP):

“I want to ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a recent Reuters article titled, “U.S. customs finds garments made with banned Chinese cotton” … It talked about testing occasions, three batches of footwear in December 2022, April 2023, May 2023, on average, the amounts [of product with links to banned Chinese cotton] there was as much as 15%, but on some occasions, 23% when they did isotopic testing. Tell me about isotopic testing. Why isn’t it being used more widely?”

To which Ms. Glas answered:

“We have the ability, Congressman … [to do] isotopic testing … You can take a few of the articles out of a particular shipment, send it to a lab and determine ­­– we have the analysis to determine where that cotton is grown. A lot of the U.S. yarn and the products coming out of our western hemisphere uses U.S. cotton grown across eighteen states. We have this technology. This is not hard. We just need to utilize it more in order to determine and deter the trade and publicly tell people, ‘these are the folks who are violating it.’ You’ll never deter the trade if you’re not stepping up your enforcement activities.”

Rep. Mike Ezell (R-MS) questioned Mr. Stumo on the loopholes being used by the CCP to bypass the UFLPA:

“I believe one way the U.S. can create a fair market for our domestic producers is to stop importing goods that are produced through forced slave labor. I think we can all agree on that. Can you describe how the CCP uses loopholes to get by our laws that should stop products that are involved with this slave labor?”

Mr. Stumo shed light on one of the ways current policies have enabled the exploitation of loopholes:

“There is a problem with manifest transparency.  Bills of lading for open ocean freight are public. As was said, truck and rail are not, [and] air is not. This Committee or the Congress should be making all manifests public and should require further supply chain transparency. Shift the burden to prove you have the right to enter our country because you are compliant with our laws, shift [that responsibility] to the importer.”


Rep. Dale Strong (R-AL) asked about how these shipments impact the U.S. textile industry:
“In your testimony, you mentioned the impact that increasing shipments have head on domestic manufacturers. Can you talk more about this, specifically the impact that you have seen in our textile industry, like on cotton farmers in Alabama?”
Ms. Glas emphasized the consequences:
“This has hurt the entire supply chain, and it has helped super-power cotton production in China. We have a real opportunity here to help farmers in states like Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina gain more market share if we are sourcing more domestically here at home. But right now, because we’re allowing these products to come in through de minimis, we’re not doing inspections like we should for UFLPA, it’s signaling to the Chinese and others in the world that are trade predators that it’s okay to flood our marketplace … We’re not going to reward the Chinese, we’re not going to reward the CCP, and we’re not going to reward the rest of the world by allowing for unexamined packages to come in duty-free, putting us out of business.”