EU to ban products made by forced labour

17 September 2021

The European Commission (EC) will propose a ban on products made by forced labour in response to China's treatment of its Uighur population.

EC president Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the move as part of her state-of-the-union address in Strasbourg.

Concerns have been expressed over alleged abuse of Xinjiang’s Muslim Uighur population, including mass surveillance, detention, and forced labour. Amnesty International claimed Chinese authorities had created a “dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale” in Xinjiang.

Von der Leyen said: “There are 25 million people out there, who are threatened or coerced into forced labour. We can never accept that they are forced to make products – and that these products then end up for sale in shops here in Europe. So we will propose a ban on products in our market that have been made by forced labour.

“Human rights are not for sale – at any price,” she said. 

Von der Leyen acknowledged the semiconductor shortage that is disrupting car and tech supply chains.

Toyota was forced to cut September production by 40%, while General Motors shut half of its North America plants. 

Von de Leyen said the EC will introduce a new European Chips Act which will coordinate EU and member state investment along value chains, bringing together EU research, design and testing capacities. 

“There is no digital without chips,” she said. “And while we speak, whole production lines are already working at reduced speed – despite growing demand – because of a shortage of semiconductors.

“But while global demand has exploded, Europe's share across the entire value chain, from design to manufacturing capacity has shrunk. We depend on state-of-the-art chips manufactured in Asia.

“The aim is to jointly create a state-of-the-art European chip ecosystem, including production. That ensures our security of supply and will develop new markets for ground-breaking European tech.

“So this is not just a matter of our competitiveness. This is also a matter of tech sovereignty. So let's put all of our focus on it.”

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