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BRUSSELS – Documents seen by Reuters news agency show that products made with forced labour or imported into the 27-country European Union will be banned. The move has been prompted by pressure from EU lawmakers who are concerned about human rights abuses in the Xinjiang, China. Cotton and textile products are closely tied with infringements on human rights in Xinjiang.

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The new EU rules, however, are not as far-reaching as some EU lawmakers had requested. For instance, in the US, there is a policy of guilty until proven innocent about products entering the country; the onus is on importers to prove their products have no links with forced labour. On the contrary, the onus will be on national authorities to prove that forced labour was involved in making and processing the products, under proposed EU guidelines. Politics is undoubtedly at play here, with EU politicians having consistently shown a lack of willingness to upset their counterparts in China.

“Such prohibition should apply to products for which forced labour has been used at any stage of their production, manufacture, harvest and extraction, including working or processing related to the products,” the new document EU document says.

“The prohibition should apply to all products, of any type, including their components, and should apply to products regardless of the sector, the origin, whether they are domestic or imported, or placed or made available on the Union market or exported.”

The new rules, which will need to be thrashed out with individual EU states, target larger economic operators such as importers, manufacturers, producers and product suppliers.

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