Senate Finance Committee Chair Questions Major Automakers About Supply Chain Links to Forced Labor in China

US Senate© tupungato / Getty Images / Canva

On Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., questioned eight major automakers over reports that their supply chains may include materials sourced from the Xinjiang region of China, where forced labor is rampant. Importing goods made with forced labor violates federal trade laws.

“Unless due diligence confirms that components are not linked to forced labor, automakers cannot and should not sell cars in the United States that include components mined or produced in Xinjiang,” Wyden wrote. “The United States considers the Chinese government’s brutal oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang an ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.’”

“I recognize automobiles contain numerous parts sourced across the world and are subject to complex supply chains. However, this recognition cannot cause the United States to compromise its fundamental commitment to upholding human rights and U.S. law,” Wyden continued.

Wyden sent letters to Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen. His request comes in the wake of a report by researchers at the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University that found links between Chinese companies operating in Xinjiang and automakers that import parts from them, including batteries, wiring and wheels.

As chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade, Wyden has fought to stop imports of products made with forced labor, and to better enforce trade laws against countries like China, which flout international trade rules to advantage their companies. Wyden successfully passed legislation he co-authored with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to close a critical loophole in U.S. trade law that had allowed goods made with forced labor into the country.

Wyden requested responses to the following questions:

1) Does [automaker] conduct its own supply chain mapping and analysis of raw materials, mining, processing, and parts manufacturing to determine if its supply chain is linked to Xinjiang? If so, please describe the extent of supply chain mapping and analysis, and specifically indicate if these efforts include sub-suppliers, including mines, mineral processors, and any affiliated entities.

2) Does [automaker] conduct its own supply chain mapping and analysis of raw materials, mining, processing, and parts manufacturing to determine if its supply chain is linked to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government’s “poverty alleviation” program or the “pairing-assistance” program outside of Xinjiang? If so, please describe the extent of supply chain mapping and analysis, and specifically indicate if these efforts include sub-suppliers, including mines, mineral processors, and any affiliated entities.

3) Does [automaker] conduct its own supply chain mapping and analysis of parts manufacturing in third countries, including Mexico and Canada, to determine if those parts suppliers have supply chains linked to Xinjiang? If so, please describe the extent of supply chain mapping and analysis, and specifically indicate if these efforts include sub-suppliers, including mines, mineral processors, and any affiliated entities.

4) Does [automaker]’s supply chain include any raw materials, mining, processing, or parts manufacturing linked to Xinjiang, including through sub-suppliers and their affiliates imported directly into the United States? If so, please:

a.       describe how [automaker] ensures that the raw materials, mining, processing, or parts manufacturing linked to Xinjiang does not depend on the use of forced labor; and,

b.      if [automaker] has a plan to exit the Xinjiang region, provide details of such plan.

5) Has [automaker] ever terminated or curtailed, or threatened to terminate or curtail, a commercial relationship with a supplier or sub-supplier, including mines, mineral processors, and any affiliated entities, because of its use of raw materials, mining, processing, or parts manufacturing linked to Xinjiang? If so, please describe, for every such incident, the actual or threatened termination or curtailment and the ultimate outcome, and whether the outcome was reported publicly.

6) Has [automaker] ever terminated or curtailed, or threatened to terminate or curtail, a commercial relationship with a supplier or sub-supplier, including mines, mineral processors, and any affiliated entities, because of its failure to comply with supply chain mapping, auditing, or other diligence or compliance activities? If so, please describe the actual or threatened termination or curtailment and the ultimate outcome, and whether the outcome was reported publicly.

7) Has any shipment of any goods to [automaker] ever been detained, excluded, or seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under any provision of Section 307 of the Trade Act of 1930 or the UFLPA? If so, for each such instance, please:

a.       describe the circumstances surrounding the CBP enforcement action;

b.      describe any information provided by CBP regarding the enforcement action, including information about the suspected forced labor; and

c.       describe [automaker]’s response to the CBP enforcement action.

The full letters to automakers are available below:

Click here for the letter to American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Click here for the letter to Ford Motor Company.

Click here for the letter to General Motors Company.

Click here for the letter to Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC.

Click here for the letter to Stellantis N.V.

Click here for the letter to Tesla, Inc.

Click here for the letter to Toyota Motor North America, Inc.

Click here for the letter to Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

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