A shopper carries a bag of Nike merchandise along the Magnificent Mile shopping district on December 21, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.
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WASHINGTON — A House committee examining the U.S. government’s economic relationship with China is asking some of the world’s largest apparel companies for information about the use of forced labor during production — a potential violation of U.S. trade law.
Lawmakers asked retailers Temu, Shein, Nike And Adidas North America over the use of materials and labor from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, according to letters sent to business leaders on Tuesday. Such practices would constitute violations of the 2021 Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Lawaccording to lawmakers.
Congress passed the UFLPA with bipartisan support after the State Department determined that China was “committing genocide against Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang.”
The letters were sent to Rupert Campbell, president of Adidas North America; Qin Sun, chairman of Temu; Chris Xu, CEO of Shein and John Donahoe, Chairman and CEO of Nike, Inc. They were signed by Representatives Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, Dill.
“The use of forced labor has been illegal for nearly a hundred years, but despite knowing their industries are involved, too many companies are looking the other way hoping not to get caught, rather than cleaning up their supply chains. . This is unacceptable. Gallagher in a statement. “American companies and companies selling in the American market have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that they do not engage themselves, their customers or their shareholders in slave labor.”
The investigations also follow a committee hearing in March that included an expert assessment concluding that US companies are funding “state-sponsored forced labor programs in the Uyghur region.”
Lawmakers have called for answers to their questions, including the identity of material suppliers, supply chain policies and auditing measures for suppliers, by May 16.
Representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
The latest investigations follow a separate bipartisan effort earlier this week urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to demand that Shein certify that it does not use Uyghur labor before the company could expand into the US market. Shein denied the charge.
Chinese brands Shein and Temu, which are owned by Chinese parent company PDD Holdings, are also accused of taking advantage of a 90-year-old loophole to avoid tariffs on many products sold directly to American consumers, said lawmakers on Tuesday.
Lawmakers say Shein and Temu rely heavily on the de minimus provision of Section 321 of the Tariff Act of 1930 to waive import duties if the fair retail value in the country of shipment does not exceed 800 dollars.