Shipment term

Skechers denies CBP detained shipment for forced labor in Xinjiang

Skechers has strongly refuted a report that a shipment of its Chinese-made products was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on suspicion of forced labor under the Uyghur Labor Law. Forced Labor Prevention (UFLPA).

The allegation comes from the Communist Party-run tabloid Global Times, which claimed last week that customs officials had accused the shoe brand of using forced Uyghur labor and other ethnic Muslims. When Skechers commissioned an independent investigation into Dongguan Lu Zhou Shoes in response, the outlet said, citing unnamed sources, that it found no evidence of wrongdoing.

“As a matter of principle, Skechers does not comment on rumors or innuendo,” a company spokesperson told The Sourcing Journal. “That being said, the company is not aware of any government agency seizures of products under any existing law. We strongly encourage you to do a good fact-check to avoid perpetuating rumors like this- this.

A CBP representative said the agency does not comment on specific investigations, although it will investigate all credible allegations of forced labor. “As CBP uncovers additional evidence through these investigations, the agency will take appropriate action,” the spokesperson added. “CBP will continue to use all available resources to prevent goods made by forced labor from entering American commerce, consistent with the agency’s statutory authority.”

Lu Zhou was named in a February 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as an alleged beneficiary of Uyghur forced labor, but Skechers maintains that his audits found no such practice. While Uyghurs make up a portion of Lu Zhou’s workforce, Skechers previously told the Sourcing Journal, they are employed on “the same terms and conditions as all other factory employees and particularly in this regard. regarding working conditions, salaries, promotions, etc. “. and are free to leave if they no longer want to work there.

In July 2021, the crimes against humanity unit of the French anti-terrorism prosecution opened an investigation against Skechers, as well as Inditex, owner of Zara, SMCP and Uniqlo, owner of Sandro and Maje, following a complaint filed by a Uyghur woman and human rights groups. Sherpa, the Ethical Collective on Etiquette and the Uyghur Institute of Europe. Skechers said at the time that he had not commented on the ongoing litigation, although he had “no reason to believe” that Lu Zhou was using forced labor. The company also pledged to continue “aggressive enforcement of its supplier code of conduct through audits and other investigations to ensure compliance.”

The Global Times report comes just as the UFLPA has become the law of the land in the United States, creating a rebuttable presumption that all goods manufactured in whole or in part in the Northwest Uyghur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang are made with forced labor – and therefore prohibited from entering the United States unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

“We are bringing together our allies and partners to make global supply chains free from the use of forced labor, to speak out against the atrocities in Xinjiang, and to join us in calling on the PRC government to immediately end the atrocities and violations. human rights, including forced labor,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

At a daily press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin denounced the move, describing any allegation of forced labor as a “huge lie fabricated by anti-China forces to denigrate China”.

“This law clearly indicates that the United States seeks to create forced unemployment in Xinjiang through a legal form[s] action and decouple the world from China,” Wang said. “It fully exposes the hegemonic nature of the United States, a country that violates human rights and breaks the rules in the name of preserving them. China strongly condemns and firmly opposes these acts and will act forcefully to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and nationals. »

In a joint statement, also released on Tuesday, the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Fashion Industry Association hailed the UFLPA as “a key part of a broad global strategy , and our common goal, to end forced labor.

“Our members have zero tolerance for forced labor and will continue to make every effort to mitigate, eradicate, eliminate and prevent forced labor in their supply chains,” the organizations said. “We look forward to increased partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Government Forced Labor Task Force, as industry works to amplify U.S. government efforts to eliminate forced labor not only in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, but worldwide. This partnership is critical to making UFLPA enforcement as effective and targeted as possible.

Mark Burstein, director of industry at Logility, an Atlanta-based digital supply chain traceability platform, said detentions, real and suspected, will become a regular occurrence now that the UFLPA is in effect. .

“CBP expects to significantly increase the number of transactions subject to review and enforcement at a much higher volume and rate than in the past,” he told the Sourcing Journal. “Without a traceability solution that collects and reports the required chain-of-custody data, it will be nearly impossible to collect and assemble it within the new 30-day holding period. Importers should be proactive and have this information available as soon as their shipment is held. »