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 labour in China.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which comes into force today, assumes that any product partly or wholly made in Xinjiang, north-west China, is linked to the region’s labour camps. Since 2017, the Chinese authorities have detained as many as one million Uyghurs and subjected them to forced labour.
The fashion industry will be particularly affected by the new law. About 20% of the world’s cotton comes from China, and 84% of that comes from Xinjiang.
The UFLPA has designated cotton a “high priority for enforcement”, along with tomatoes and polysilicon. Any British or EU fashion brand exporting to the US will also be subject to it, and failure to provide adequate certification or supply-chain details may result in fines of up to $250,000 (£205,000).