As per experts at a virtual conference on October 14 held by Sourcing Journal, tariffs are a way to put pressure on China and scrutinize China’s repression of its Uighur minority. In December 2019, both China and the US reached a Phase 1 deal according to which US reduced some tariffs and keep others, while China agreed to buy more American products and services. Though progress on the deal has stalled, the two sides say the deal is moving forward.
Many US democrats have called for a hard stance on China. According to Ron Sorini, Principal at the firm Sorini, Samet & Associates and manager of its business development, consulting, and lobbying practice, Democrats see tariffs as a way to show they’re being tough. He thinks Democrats could even escalate the trade war over China’s treatment of Uighurs.
US engaged in a campaign increasingly likened to genocide against the predominately Muslim ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region, claiming it is cracking down on extremism. Uighurs are subjected to forced labor, including in the region’s cotton fields, which produce around 80% of China’s cotton. Concerns over clothing and products containing cotton made by forced labor entering the US have prompted the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to pass a bill requiring companies prove products imported from Xinjiang are not made with forced labor.
If passed into law, the bill would create complications for clothing companies. It’s difficult to accurately assess conditions in Xinjiang, where auditors generally can’t work independent of monitoring or interference by Chinese authorities. Several auditing firms have recently stopped working there, while companies have been urged to stop sourcing from Xinjiang entirely.