Lawmakers are piling pressure on the European Commission to implement a full ban on the trade of products made using forced labour, amid concerns that bureaucrats could water down plans to outlaw the practice later this year. A resolution will be launched by influential members of the European Parliament’s trade committee in early June, calling for a tool “based on best practices” of bans on forced labour products in the United States and Canada, as “a political priority of the parliament and the EU as a whole”. It calls for a total ban on the “import and export of products made or transported by forced labour”, as well as those found within the EU’s single market. The motion is not aimed directly at China, but names only two instances of alleged forced labour in draft text seen by the South China Morning Post . They are: the situation of Uygurs in Xinjiang , where China has been accused of cultivating a widespread programme of forced labour; and the alleged use of forced labour and human trafficking in the Serbian factory of Chinese firm Shandong Linglong Tyre Co. Multiple independent reports indicate that as many as 1 million Uygurs and other ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang have been held in detention camps, with many more allegedly subjected to forced labour conditions. China has denied that there is any forced labour in Xinjiang, and recently ratified two International Labour Organization conventions governing the practice. The European Commission is readying a proposal on a forced labour ban for September, a year after it was announced by President Ursula von der Leyen – to the shock of many EU officials. The announcement was not made in consultation with von der Leyen’s own trade department, and the plan has been passed from pillar to post for much of the intervening nine months. “Nobody wanted to take responsibility for it – we have been kicking the ball back and forth to each other,” said one official. The powerful department of trade lobbied heavily against having a separate ban on forced labour goods, instead wanting it to be wrapped into new corporate due diligence rules, largely because they understood it would be an administrative nightmare to manage. In the US, which enacted the Uygur Forced Labour Prevention Act earlier this year, customs authorities have been stretched to the brink, while importers have complained about the burden of proving a negative: that there is no forced labour in your supply chain, particularly beyond tier one and two suppliers in China. Now, however, the free market-loving Directorate General for Trade is charged with putting together a plan in time for von der Leyen’s State of the Union address in September, alongside the department that oversees the rules of the EU’s single market. Figures in parliament see the resolution as a way of ensuring the internecine fighting at Berlaymont will not derail the breadth of the ban. The draft resolution – which insiders expect to pass by a large majority – says the instrument “should allow for bans of forced labour products from a particular site of production, a particular importer of company, those from a particular region in case of state-sponsored forced labour”. This may set the powerful committee on a collision course with the commission, which is keen to avoid banning goods from specific regions. In an address to parliament last month, Madelaine Tuininga, the trade department’s sustainable development chief, said in order to comply with world trade rules, “we should be careful to not single out specific countries” given that “even when present, goods produced with forced labour only represent a small part of all the goods produced in a region”. By contrast, the US government has been operating on the assumption that all goods made in Xinjiang should be treated as though there is forced labour in the supply chain. The EU’s 27 member states imported US$153 million worth of goods directly from Xinjiang in the first three months of the year, according to the Post ’s calculations based on Chinese customs data. This was down 13 per cent from the first quarter of 2021. A new report commissioned by the parliament and released this week found that an import ban may be unlikely to change matters on the ground in Xinjiang, due to the “possibility of shifts in the patterns of exploitation to avoid international restrictions”. The report, which also examined instances of “modern slavery” in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Mexico, the Philippines, Sudan and Thailand, found that addressing the situation in Xinjiang was “particularly challenging” because “the state is actively involved in preventing accurate reporting of the situation”. Pointing to Beijing’s retaliatory sanctions on EU lawmakers, diplomats and academics in response to Brussels’ sanctioning of mid-level officials implicated in human rights abuses in the region, the authors found “a lack of willingness to engage constructively with coercive measures and ameliorate the modern slavery situation in Xinjiang on the part of the Chinese government”.