On March 1, 2021, Ashley Craig was quoted in the Financial Times on action President Biden could take on the trade front in response to China’s repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.
According to the article, senators Marco Rubio and Jeff Merkley are pushing legislation that would require companies to ensure they are not using forced labor from Xinjiang. A similar bill, which was backed by progressive Democrats such as Ilhan Omar, passed 406-3 in the House last year. While the boycott calls have come from Republicans, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress for the forced-labor bill, which would require companies to certify that they are not using workers who are under duress.
After raising the issue in his first call with Xi Jinping, Biden said the Chinese leader understood there would be “repercussions.” Craig said Biden would probably take action on the trade front by banning the import of more products from Xinjiang, after the Trump administration in January moved to prohibit imports of tomatoes and goods made with cotton from Xinjiang. But he said China was highly unlikely to be cowed by any measures from the U.S., given the scale of the detention program in Xinjiang. “I don’t see the Chinese government substantially backing down. Look at the activity in terms of the camps’ infrastructure. It would have to be a massive boycott, with everyone backing it, to have an impact.”