Major American corporations are flexing their Washington influence to fight legislation reeling towards the president’s desk that curbs their ability to profit off Chinese slave labor.
According to the New York Times on Sunday, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple have deployed their teams of lobbyists to push back on a bill prohibiting product imports manufactured in China using forced labor. The bill, Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, passed overwhelmingly in the House with bipartisan support 406-3, is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump or a President Biden next year if approved by the Senate.
Company lobbyists, the Times reported based on discussions with congressional staff and lobbying records, have been working Capitol Hill to weaken the legislation arguing that if passed, it could put excessive stress on supply chains. Targeted provisions include mandates to prove at customs products were made without forced labor and public disclosure requirements documenting ties to Xinjiang, where millions of Uyghur Muslims have been subject to religious persecution, including slavery.
“China’s detainment of Uyghur Muslims and their use of forced labor is an absolute travesty,” Colorado Republican Congressman Ken Buck told The Federalist. “No American company should be lobbying against a bill to end slave labor or relying on slave labor to make their products, no less.”
Buck, who introduced a similar bill in July requiring CEOs to certify their supply chains remained free of slave labor had previously elicited promises from the nation’s tech giants, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, that they would refrain from harnessing forced labor to make their products.
Several months later, the Washington Post reported Apple’s lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act which would prohibit just that.
Tim Cook told me, under oath, that he would support ending slave labor in China.
So why is @Apple now lobbying against ending slave labor?
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) November 23, 2020
According to the Times, Apple, a company with deep ties to the communist regime has also lobbied for changes to the Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020, introduced by Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton which also passed the House in September.
Each company has maintained that their products are free from Chinese slave labor. Nike and Apple in particular, have refuted a March report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute naming each among 82 corporations potentially benefiting either directly or indirectly from forced labor in programs in Xinjiang.