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US Carmakers Probed For Potential Ties To Uyghur Slave Labor

John Hugh DeMastri on December 22, 2022

The Senate Finance Committee is probing eight major U.S. automakers, including General Motors and Ford, for the potential use of parts and materials obtained through the “rampant” use of Uyghur forced labor in China, according to a Thursday press release.

Democratic Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon issued a letter to each automaker, asking them to clarify their supply chain’s relationship with the Xinjiang region of China, which he described as containing “rampant” forced labor, according to a press release. The letters — issued to Ford, General Motors, Dodge-maker Stellantis, Tesla, and the American arms of Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Volkswagen, — reminded the companies that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) bans companies from importing goods made in Xinjiang unless they can prove they were not made using forced labor.

“Unless due diligence confirms that components are not linked to forced labor, automakers cannot and should not sell cars in the United States that include components mined or produced in Xinjiang,” Wyden wrote in the letters. “The United States considers the Chinese government’s brutal oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang an ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.’”

Sen. Wyden cites a December report from the Sheffield Hallam University Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, a British social justice and human rights advocacy organization, which alleges that the eight companies Wyden contacted, in addition to the French automaker Renault and Chinese automaker NIO, had multiple supply chain exposures to Uyghur forced labor.

“We traced the customers of companies that mine, process, and manufacture products relevant to the automotive industry that have engaged in forced labor in the Uyghur Region,” the report reads. “The results were startling—practically every major traditional automotive and electric vehicle manufacturer has significant exposure to forced labor in the Uyghur Region.”

China has previously denied allegations of forced labor in Xinjiang, claiming that internment camps combat terrorism and provide vocational education, according to The Wall Street Journal.  Since the UFLPA took effect in June, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has seized hundreds of millions dollars worth of shipments of solar panel equipment.

General Motors’ policy prohibits the use of forced labor in its supply chain and it conducts “extensive due diligence” to ensure it stays within the law, the company told the WSJ. A Volkswagen spokesperson similarly said that the use of forced labor could cause a supplier’s contract to be terminated.

“At Stellantis, we take these matters extremely seriously,” a Stellantis spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The company is currently reviewing both Wyden’s letter and the report, and noted that suppliers undergo “ongoing evaluation.”

“Honda expects our suppliers to follow our Global Sustainability Guidelines with respect to labor,” a Honda spokesperson told the DCNF. “This increasingly strengthens the confirmation of supplier ESG compliance which is coordinated at a global level.  As with other inquiries from Capitol Hill, Honda will work with policymakers on these important issues.”

Tesla, GM, Ford, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Honda Representative for Sen. Wyden did not immediately respond to a DCNF request for comment.

US Carmakers Probed For Potential Ties To Uyghur Slave Labor

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