On January 12, 2021, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, as well as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade, made parallel announcements outlining new measures to combat forced labor and human rights violations. The announcements come in the context of rising global concerns over reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in northwest China.

The United Kingdom’s measures to combat forced labor include: 

  • A review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang. The review will determine which additional products will be subject to export controls in the future.
  • The introduction of financial penalties for organizations, with revenue of at least 36 million pounds ($49 million), who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements, under the Modern Slavery Act.
  • Detailed guidance to UK business setting out the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang and underlining the challenges of effective due diligence there.
  • Guidance and support for all UK public bodies to use public procurement rules to exclude suppliers where there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations in supply chains. Compliance will be mandatory for central government, non-departmental bodies, and executive agencies.
  • A Minister led campaign of business engagement to reinforce the need for UK businesses to take action to address the risk.

Canada’s measures to combat forced labor include:

  • The Prohibition of imports of goods produced wholly or in part by forced labor as prescribed under the Customs Tariff Act.
  • Requiring Canadian companies that are 1) sourcing directly or indirectly from Xinjiang or from entities relying on Uyghur labor, 2) established in Xinjiang, or 3) seeking to engage in the market, to sign an Integrity Declaration on Doing Business with Xinjiang Entities prior to receiving services and support from the Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)A Business Advisory on Xinjiang-related entities.
  • Enhanced advice to Canadian businesses (See Global Affairs Canada business advisory).
  • Export controls including the denial of export licenses if there is a substantial risk that the export would result in a serious violation of human rights or international human rights law under the Export and Import Permit Act (EIPA).
  • Increasing awareness for Responsible Business Conduct linked to Xinjiang.
  • A Study on forced labor and supply chain risks.

The announced measures continue a global trend of new policies targeting forced labor and human rights abuses.

The Press Releases are available here:

UK Press Release

Canadian Press Release

For more information on the United Kingdom and Canada’s announcements, as well as similar actions under the U.S. Magnitsky Act, please contact Michelle Linderman or Dj Wolff.