US intent on banning tomato imports from Xinjiang, China

US Customs and Border Protection officials have prepared orders to block imports of tomato products (as well as cotton) from China’s western region of Xinjiang. Although a formal announcement has been not been issued yet, this embargo seems to have everything to do with accusations of forced labor.

The tomato ban, and those on other imports, over alleged Xinjiang forced-labor abuses, would be an unprecedented move. It would very likely also be detrimental to the relationship between the world’s two largest economies.

According to a report by Reuters, the “Withhold Release Orders” allows the agency to detain shipments based on suspicion of forced-labor involvement under long-standing US laws to combat human trafficking, child labor and other human rights abuses.

President Donald Trump’s administration is ratcheting up pressure on China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, where the United Nations cites credible reports as saying 1 million Muslims held in camps have been put to work. China denies mistreatment of the Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.

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