Nike, Coca-Cola lobbying to weaken China forced labor bill: Report

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed in the House by a 406-3 vote

Nike, Coca-Cola and other leading companies have pressured lawmakers to dilute a proposed bill that would ban products manufactured through forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region from being imported to the United States, according to a report on Sunday.

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The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed the House by a 406-3 vote in September and is expected to be approved by the Senate in the coming months. If signed into law, the bill would block the import of goods or materials made in Xinjiang unless companies can prove they were not produced through forced labor and require businesses to disclose their ties to the region, among other measures.

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Several top companies and business groups have hired lobbyists to alter portions of the bill, the New York Times reported, citing conversations with congressional aides and lobbying records. The groups say they condemn the human rights abuses in the Xinjiang, but warn that some of the measures proposed in the bill could upend supply chains in the area.

The U.S. government and human rights groups have condemned Beijing for the treatment of minority Muslim groups held in concentration camps in Xinjiang.

China has denied alleged mistreatment of Uyghurs and claimed the camps are actually training centers.

In a report released in March, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China identified several leading companies “suspected of directly employing forced labor or sources from suppliers that are suspected of using forced labor.” Companies named in the report included Coca-Cola, Nike, Costco, Calvin Klein and several others.

Nike spent more than $1 million on federal lobbying efforts through the first three quarters of 2020, some of which was used to fund lobbying on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, according to the Times. Coca-Cola spent $4.68 million on in-house and outside lobbying over the same time period.

A Nike representative said the company “did not lobby against this bill” and described the company’s efforts as “constructive discussions with staff of the Congressional Commission aimed at eliminating forced labor and protecting human rights.”

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“Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards,” the company said in a statement released in March. “We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.”

Coca-Cola said that it “strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain” and conducts third-party reviews of its suppliers to ensure best practices.