EU proposes banning products made with forced labour

BRUSSELS: The European Commission proposed on Wednesday (Sep 14) an EU ban on products made using forced labour with legislation that will add to existing US pressure on China, but will likely change before it enters force.

The EU executive does not name any country in its proposal, but it follows a European Parliament call for such a law in June that highlighted concerns over human rights in China’s Xinjiang region.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority, in Xinjiang, including mass forced labour in internment camps.

The United States, which accuses China of genocide, introduced a law in 2021 that broadly prohibits importing goods from Xinjiang.

China denies abuses in the region, a major cotton producer that also supplies materials for solar panels.

The EU proposal highlights the 27.6 million people the International Labour Organization says were engaged in forced labour in 2021, 11 per cent more than in 2016.

Just more than half were in the Asia-Pacific region, although the highest level per capita was in Arab states. Forced labour was also a problem in high income countries.