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US’ ban on Xianjiang cotton evokes mixed response from Japan’s apparel brands


The US ban on cotton originating from the Xinjiang region in China has evoked mixed responses from Japanese apparel makers. In April, a French nongovernmental organization supporting Uyghurs filed a complaint against Uniqlo’s unit in France, Inditex, the Spanish owner of the Zara apparel retail chain, and two other global apparel makers, claiming that they were benefiting from forced labor in Xinjiang.

In May, US blocked import of shirts for Uniqlo casual wear chain, alleging that they were made from Xinjiang cotton. The US Customs and Border Protection took the action against Uniqlo in January on suspicion of violating a US ban on the import of goods from the Chinese region, where forced labor is reportedly practiced. Uniqlo denied the allegations, saying the shirts were made from cotton produced outside China and sewn at its plant in the country. The clothing chain also said it had not confirmed any use of forced labor in the production process for the cotton it uses.

Ryohin Keikaku, the retailer and wholesaler of Muji- products, initially maintained a hands-off stance on the question of Xinjiang cotton However, in mid-April, the company admitted to the use of the cotton. Mizuno Corp, a comprehensive producer of sporting goods, announced a decision in May to stop using Xinjiang cotton, while underwear maker Gunze plans to adopt an alternative cotton for certain types of socks.

The new US rules require importers to prove that cotton they use was not made in Xinjiang. They are required to provide evidence that there has been no trade whatsoever with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a Communist Party of China-affiliated economic and paramilitary organization in the region, at any stage of the marketing channel after production.