China continues to use forced labour to produce goods intended for export to the US, a violation of the American law and bilateral trade agreements, according to a report.
The report titled 'US Exposure to Forced Labour Exports from China: Developments since the US Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015' states that the value of the Chinese forced labour exports to the US is unknown as China's forced labour industry has long been opaque.
This opacity is exacerbated by the use of middlemen companies to market the products in question for export, by US inspectors' lack of access to suspected sites and by the Chinese government's refusal to agree with the US government on what constitutes forced labour and thus which products are governed by relevant bilateral agreements, it said.
"China maintains a network of prison labour facilities that use forced labour to produce goods intended for export - a violation of US-China trade agreements and US law.
"US officials continue to face considerable difficulty in combating exports of these forced labour products, since cooperation from Chinese interlocutors has remained at low levels for years," the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in the report released yesterday.
It said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had not been permitted to make site inspections in China since 2009.
The report said Chinese officials routinely deny that the suspected forced labour was occurring, claiming the factories in question do not exist or that they do not make the products in question.
According to the US Department of Labour, known products linked to Chinese forced labour as of September 2016 are artificial flowers, bricks, Christmas decorations, coal, cotton, electronics, fireworks, footwear, garments and construction nails.
ICE, the agency responsible for identifying foreign manufacturers that use forced or child labour, has only five agents in mainland China and three in Hong Kong.
An ICE official told the Commission in February this year that the agency's agents had not been permitted to conduct inspections of suspected forced labour facilities since 2009, the report said.