Biden signs forced labor bills in China, ALS research –

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bill to block imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless the companies can prove the items were made without forced labor, the latest d a series of intensified US sanctions against the Asian powerhouse for alleged abuses.

The measure had to overcome some initial White House hesitation, as well as business opposition, to win the final pass last week in the Senate, following the previous pass in the House. Biden also signed a separate bill on Thursday funding research into a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Today I signed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” Biden said on Twitter, along with a photo of himself as he signed the piece of legislation from his Oval Office office. “The United States will continue to use all tools at its disposal to ensure supply chains are free of forced labor, including from Xinjiang and other parts of China.”

The new law is the latest in a series of attempts by the United States to get tough with China over its alleged systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its western region, particularly the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs of the country. Xinjiang.

It forces US government agencies to expand their monitoring of the use of forced labor by Chinese ethnic minorities. Basically, this creates a presumption that goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor. Companies will have to prove that forced labor, including by workers transferred from Xinjiang, was not used in the manufacture of the product before it was allowed in the United States.

The House and Senate each passed the measure with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans.

It wasn’t until shortly before the Senate vote last week that the White House said Biden supported the measure. The announcement follows months in which the White House refused, despite repeated questioning, to take a public position on an earlier version of the measure.

The United States claims that China is committing genocide in its treatment of Uyghurs. This includes widespread reports by rights groups and journalists of forced sterilization and large detention camps where many Uyghurs are said to be forced to work in factories.

China denies any abuse and says the steps it has taken are necessary to fight terrorism and a separatist movement.

The United States cites raw cotton, gloves, tomato products, silicon and viscose, fishing gear and solar energy components among the goods allegedly produced by forced labor in the Xinjiang, a mining region rich in resources and important for agricultural production. The region is also home to a booming industrial sector.

Detainees are also being moved out of Xinjiang and put to work in factories, including in the garment and textile, electronics, solar energy and automobile sectors, according to the United States.

Some large companies lobbied against the measure. Apple, like Nike and other companies with production in China, said it found no signs of forced labor from Xinjiang in its manufacturing or supply chain.

Uyghur rights advocates and others had also feared private opposition within the Biden administration as the United States sought cooperation from the Chinese on climate change and other issues.

In a statement last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted export controls and import restrictions, sanctions, diplomatic initiatives and other measures the administration had already taken to target forced labor in Xinjiang.

The White House also recently announced that it would hold a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing “gross human rights violations and atrocities in Xinjiang”. American athletes will be allowed to compete as part of a diplomatic boycott, but the president and other American dignitaries will not travel to the games, which open in February.

While Biden signed the Uyghur bill privately, the White House hosted a public signing ceremony — with guests attending remotely — for the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act.

The law will channel $100 million a year between 2022 and 2026 into research into Lou Gehrig’s disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and similar diseases. It will also create grant programs and provide early access to promising treatments for patients who are not accepted into clinical trials.

“For too long there have been no ALS survivors, but this bill can bring us closer to changing that,” Biden said.

ALS is named after the New York Yankees baseball player who retired in 1939 due to illness. Gehrig died in 1941.


Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.

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