Many brands are accused of using forced labour from the Uighur population to manufacture products that are then sold at low prices. The French Senate on Thursday adopted an environmental motion for a resolution to ban products from the forced labor of Uighurs in China, despite reservations of form from several political groups. Out of 343 voters, the text, which has no binding force, received 144 votes "for", none against. But the groups of the Senate majority, The Republicans and the Centrist Union, abstained.
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A draft regulation is under discussion at European level that would eventually allow member states to ban the import of products from forced labour, without explicitly targeting China. For the signatories of the motion for a resolution, "it is too little, too late", in particular because States "will themselves have to substantiate their suspicions that a product is the result of forced labour".
"A position close to that of the United States"
"We would like France and Europe to adopt a position close to that of the United States," with a reversal of the burden of proof, said the president of the ecologist group, Guillaume Gontard. The motion for a resolution calls on the European Union to revise the draft regulation to "prohibit the import of products manufactured using forced labour and derived, even in part, from the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, unless the companies concerned can prove beyond doubt - and it is up to them alone to prove it - that their production does not involve forced labour".
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"A way of seeing" that is not shared by the LR and centrist senators, even if they support the objective of the motion for a resolution. "In the maze of modern supply chains, eliminating this doubt will be almost impossible," said Pascale Gruny (LR). The communist Fabien Gay for his part considered "problematic" the reference to the American device, noting that the decisions of the United States "are part of a logic of economic war". However, his group voted in favour of the motion for a resolution, with two exceptions.
"We call for European discussions to accelerate"
In addition to the ecologist group, the text was also voted by the PS, RDPI with a Renaissance majority, Independents and RDSE with a radical majority. "Our objective today is for the European Union to take measures commensurate with the challenges," said Olivier Becht, Minister for Foreign Trade. "The France will therefore be attentive to the further clarification of the draft regulation" and "we call for European discussions to accelerate," he added.
In April, the French judiciary dismissed a preliminary investigation against clothing giants such as Uniqlo and Inditex, accused by associations of profiting from the forced labor of Uighurs in China. A new complaint was filed in May. In January 2022, the National Assembly passed a resolution denouncing China's "genocide" of the Uighurs, calling on the French government to do the same.