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WASHINGTON – Uzbekistan’s cotton sector took a step closer to coming in from the economic cold this week as civil rights groups, the Uzbek Government, the IFC and other industry stakeholders reviewed a new Responsible Sourcing Agreement framework (RSA) which could potentially provide a vehicle for brands and retailers to resume sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan.

Stakeholders at the meeting argued that Uzbekistan provides an opportunity for brands looking to shift sourcing from the troubled region of Xinjiang.

Brands and retailers have boycotted Uzbek cotton for several years due to issues of forced labour in the annual cotton harvest. However, a process of reform led by the Uzbek cotton has led to a steep reduction in the use of forced labour (although civil rights groups claim it has not been eliminated completely).

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