Tesla, General Motors, Ford questioned by US senator about Chinese supply chains and their ties to forced labor
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, CEO, asked major automakers, including TeslaAnd the general motors And the strongholdto provide details about their Chinese supply chains after a study found links between some auto companies and Chinese entities in a region where US officials say forced labor exists.
Wyden sent letters to eight automakers, asking how they map out their supply chains to determine if any part was linked to the area where the Uighur minority was allegedly abused. Wyden referred to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which President Joe Biden signed last year and took effect in June. The bill states that imports from China’s Xinjiang region should not be allowed into the country unless the importer can convincingly show that the products were not made with forced labor.
Wyden told the companies that the information he requested “will assist the Senate Finance Committee’s investigation of the effectiveness of US trade efforts to combat forced labor and other serious human rights abuses in China.”
In a fact sheet published last year, the US State Department wrote that the Chinese government used surveillance techniques and criminal charges to help it “kidnap and detain” more than a million Muslims, including Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. The agency said there are up to 1,200 “state-run internment camps” in Xinjiang where forced labor is used.
A representative from the Chinese Embassy in the US did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but China has previously denied using forced labour, despite findings to the contrary by the UN Special Rapporteur on Modern Slavery.
In the letters, Wyden pointed to a report released this month from the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University that found links between Chinese companies operating in the Xinjiang region and the automakers whose products they use.
Senator asked Tesla, General Motors, Ford, HondaAnd the Mercedes BenzAnd the ExcellentAnd the Toyota And the Volkswagen How do they trace the supply chains of manufacturing parts in other countries such as Mexico or Canada to determine if there are any links back to Xinjiang.
Wyden also asked the automakers if they had plans to exit Xinjiang and if they had severed or threatened to sever a relationship with a supplier or sub-supplier because of its ties to the region. He requested additional information about any automakers’ shipments that had been seized by border authorities.
GM said after the report that it monitors its global supply chain and performs due diligence, “particularly when we identify or become aware of potential violations of the law, our agreements, or our policies.” The automaker said it uses its Supplier Code of Conduct, guided by the United Nations Global Compact, to “investigate problems, substantiate allegations, establish facts and act quickly to determine the appropriate solution on a case-by-case basis, up to and including termination of business relationships.”
GM has also stated that it has a “strong” code of conduct for suppliers and terms and conditions that “clearly state that we prohibit any use of child labor or any other form of forced or involuntary labor, abusive treatment of employees or corrupt business practices in the supply of goods and services.” for General Motors.
A spokesperson for Stellantis said the company “takes these matters very seriously” and is reviewing Wyden’s letter and the study he referenced.
“Building strong and responsible supply chains is an important focus for us,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We monitor our suppliers’ compliance with our Code of Conduct and respect for human rights by requiring contractual commitments and continual evaluation.”
A Honda spokesperson said in a statement that the company “expects our suppliers to follow our global sustainability guidelines with respect to business,” and that the company will “work with policymakers on these important issues.”
A Toyota spokesperson declined to comment, stating that the company had just received the letter. The other automakers mentioned in this article did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“I realize that cars contain many parts that are sourced from all over the world and go through complex supply chains,” Wyden wrote. “However, this acknowledgment cannot cause the United States to abdicate its fundamental obligation to uphold human rights and American law.”
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