US Customs screening Thai exports for Uighur labour abuse: DITP
The United States is keeping an eye on products imported from Thailand that could violate its law protecting the Uighur ethnic population from forced labour in China.
The Thai Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) said on Friday that US authorities are screening imports from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Sri Lanka for evidence they violate the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA).
The US enacted the law on June 21 last year to halt importation of products made in China's Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government is subjecting the Uighur population to forced labour, mass arbitrary detention and mass sterilisation.
DITP deputy director general Arada Fuengthong said products and materials exported from Xinjiang include cotton, tomatoes and polysilicon. Polysilicon is a raw material used to make solar cells.
She added that UFLPA also covers electronic products, shoes, gloves, noodles, printed materials, toys and wigs.
Products and raw materials from Xinjiang are often shipped to a third country before being exported to the US, she explained.
She said US Customs officials will detain products they suspect derive from Xinjiang for 30 days to allow importers to return them or prove that the products were not made from materials or labour in Xinjiang.
She warned that those found violating the UFLPA will face criminal penalties and also be banned from importing products to the US.
No Thai exports had been affected by the US law so far, though it had caused delays in shipments, Arada said.
"The DITP is monitoring this issue closely," she added.
Chaichan Charoensuk, chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council, said Thai exporters have adapted to deal with this issue by sourcing materials from other countries, including Vietnam.
US-Thailand trade was worth $65.55 billion (2.23 trillion baht) last year, up 16.53% year on year. Thailand enjoyed a trade surplus of 29.5 billion baht with the US, with exports worth $47.52 billion and imports at $18.02 billion.
In January, Thailand’s trade with the US rose 7.18% y-o-y to $4.87 billion, with $3.40 billion in exports and $1.46 billion of imports.
Thailand’s main exports to the US are computers, rubber products, telephones, gems and jewellery, and electric appliances. Meanwhile, Thailand imports crude oil, electric circuits, chemicals, machines, and aircraft from the US.