The fashion industry has been told it must wean itself off cotton from China’s Xinjiang region, as a new law comes into force giving US border authorities greater powers to block or seize goods linked to forced labor in China.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which came into force yesterday, assumes that any product partly or wholly made in Xinjiang is linked to the region’s labor camps.
Since 2017, the Chinese authorities have detained as many as 1 million Uighurs and subjected them to forced labor.
The fashion industry would be particularly affected by the new law. About 20 percent of the world’s cotton comes from China and 84 percent of that comes from Xinjiang.
The UFLPA has designated cotton a “high priority for enforcement,” along with tomatoes and polysilicon. Any fashion brand exporting to the US would also be subject to it and failure to provide adequate certification or supply-chain details could result in fines of up to US$250,000.
However, the ban poses big problems for the industry.
Liv Simpliciano of Fashion Revolution said Xinjiang cotton is ubiquitous in supply chains.
“The difficulty is that at the ginning stage [when fibers are separated from their seeds], cotton from disparate locations is mixed together, making it impossible to trace the provenance,” she said.
A number of technology companies, among them TrusTrace, SupplyShift and TextileGenesis, plan to use blockchain and artificial intelligence to trace supply chains for fashion labels. Brands can use the platforms to log all their purchase orders and certifications.
To prove conclusively an absence of Xinjiang cotton, brands would need to show a “complete digital chain of custody, where a brand is fully in control of its supply chain from the farm onwards,” TrusTrace chief executive officer Shameek Ghosh said.
While fashion has historically been notoriously cagey about its supply chains, there is now a strong business case for full transparency.
A report by the financial think tank Planet Tracker said that implementing traceability “can improve net profit on average by 3 to 7 percent for apparel companies.”
That is before any fashion stock has been impounded by border forces.
Because of General Data Protection Regulation, TrusTrace is not alerted if Xinjiang cotton is found in a brand’s supply chain.
“Only the brand is informed,” Ghosh said. “They wouldn’t use a platform like this [if they’d be exposed].”
However, blockchain technology is not without its problems.
“If you’re relying on brand discretion to ratify their sourcing practices, then what’s the efficacy going to be?” Philippa Grogan of Eco-Age asked.
“Also, blockchain technology is not regulated, so it creates a risk environment — the lack of regulatory oversight makes it vulnerable to market manipulation,” she said.
‘UNACCEPTABLE’: The foreign ministry said that China’s behavior broke international law, while Johnny Chiang was worried such balloons could be used against Taiwan A suspected Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the US was yesterday condemned by officials in Taipei and sparked calls for the government to plan countermeasures. The Pentagon on Thursday said it had detected a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the country. Beijing has said the balloon is a civilian meteorological device that drifted into US territory after being blown off course. The National Security Bureau and Ministry of National Defense should investigate whether surveillance balloons could be used against Taiwan and prepare to respond to such acts, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s postponement
INTELLIGENCE VALUE: While the US was working on recovering the balloon’s remains, China said that it reserved ‘the right to make ... necessary responses’ US President Joe Biden’s administration lauded the Pentagon for shooting down an alleged Chinese spy balloon off the US Atlantic coast on Saturday, but China angrily voiced its “strong dissatisfaction” at the move, and said it might make “necessary responses.” The craft spent several days flying over North America before it was targeted off the coast of the southeastern state of South Carolina with a missile fired from an F-22 plane, Pentagon officials said. It fell into relatively shallow water just 14m deep. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called the operation a “deliberate and lawful action” that came in response to China’s
RISK FACTOR: ASEAN issued a statement saying the cross-strait situation ‘could lead to miscalculation,’ but it is willing to facilitate dialogue to ensure stability in the region The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday welcomed a joint statement by ASEAN leaders voicing concerns that the situation across the Taiwan Strait could affect regional stability. The statement was issued after the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat ended on Saturday in Jakarta. It was the first major meeting since Indonesia assumed chairmanship of ASEAN this year. Attendees of the meeting reiterated their determination to promote “sustainable peace, security, stability, and prosperity within and beyond the region,” the statement said. They expressed concerns about developments across the Taiwan Strait and their “implications on regional stability,” the statement said. The cross-strait situation “could lead to miscalculation, serious
THINK TANK VISIT: The former US Indo-Pacific official said that a capture of Taiwan’s outlying islands by China rather than a large-scale attack is a grave security concern The US and Taiwan can deepen their relations on many fronts, former head of the US Indo-Pacific Command Philip Davidson said yesterday while visiting President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office. Davidson is leading a six-member delegation from the National Bureau of Asian Research, a US-based think tank. They arrived on Monday and are scheduled to depart tomorrow. Tsai met with the delegation yesterday morning, welcoming the organization on its first visit to Taiwan since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the office said in a statement. She thanked Davidson, a retired admiral, for paying close attention to matters regarding the Taiwan