US Senate Investigation Finds Link Between Imported Cars and Forced Labor

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A United States Congressional investigation released Monday (20/5) found that carmakers BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen had used components from Chinese suppliers banned in the US because of alleged links to forced labor.

The Senate Finance Committee report said BMW had produced and imported vehicles with parts “allegedly made with forced labor”, while Jaguar Land Rover imported parts with the same problem.

VW also makes vehicles for the US market with similar components, and has “ongoing business relationships” with manufacturers in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, the report said.

Beijing is accused of imprisoning more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of detention facilities in Xinjiang – although officials in the country strongly deny this.

In the United States, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) prohibits the import of all goods from Xinjiang unless companies provide verifiable evidence that their production does not involve forced labor.

“The automakers’ self-policing clearly hasn’t worked,” Democratic Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden said at the end of the two-year investigation.

He called on US customs officials to step up enforcement and “take action against companies fueling China’s shameful use of forced labor.

The latest report investigates components of Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group Co, a company added to the UFLPA’s entity list in 2023 due to participation in business practices said to target members of persecuted groups such as China’s Uighurs.

The automaker’s suppliers were found to source components indirectly from Jingweida, meaning the parts were banned for vehicles destined for the US market.

Volkswagen revealed earlier this year that its vehicle shipments to the United States included parts made by a blacklisted supplier company, and it planned to replace those components before the cars entered the US.

“We acted as quickly as possible and responsibly to replace the part,” a VW spokesperson said in response to questions.

The spokesperson added that VW is “committed to preventing the use of forced labor in our supply chain.

BMW was also found to have “imported thousands of vehicles destined for the United States including parts prohibited under the UFLPA,” the committee said.

He added that BMW revealed after questioning that at least 8,000 Mini Cooper cars containing the component were shipped to the country.

“BMW continues to import products manufactured by JWD until at least April 2024,” the report said, referring to Jingweida.

In response to AFP questions, BMW said it had “taken steps to stop imports of affected products, and will provide customer service and notification to dealers of affected motor vehicles.”

When asked about the Senate’s findings, China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned the UFLPA as an “evil law.” The law “could even be called the most notorious human rights violation law of the 21st century,” said its spokesman, Wang Wenbin.

“This highly self-serving behavior that wantonly destroys the rules of international trade and severely disrupts international production and supply chains is a manifestation of the oppressive tyranny of the United States,” he added.