Japanese apparel firms in dilemma over Xinjiang cotton

Japan Times -- Sep 24
Major Japanese apparel makers and other companies are in a dilemma over Xinjiang cotton, considered one of the best cottons in the world.

But beyond its high global esteem, Xinjiang cotton is seen as symbolizing China's repression of ethnic minority Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Users of the cotton are increasingly facing backlash from the international community.

In May, it was learned that the United States had blocked imports of shirts for Fast Retailing Co.'s Uniqlo casual wear chain, alleging that they were made from Xinjiang cotton. U.S. Customs and Border Protection took the action against Uniqlo in January on suspicion of violating a U.S. ban on the import of goods from the Chinese region, where forced labor is reportedly practiced.

Uniqlo denied the U.S. allegations, saying that 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.

Under the new U.S. rules, however, it is not enough for 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.