U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reportedly prepared orders that would block cotton, tomatoes and certain other imports from China’s Western Xinjiang region over forced labor concerns, and an official announcement could come as soon as this week.

The CBP’s “Withhold Release Orders,” issued under U.S. laws on human trafficking, child labor and other human rights issues, allow it to detain shipments based on suspicions of forced labor.

An import ban on forced labor issues would likely increase tensions between the U.S. and China. Reuters reports that the ban would cover the entire supply chain for the affected products. In the case of cotton, that includes yarn, textiles and apparel. China produces about 20 percent of the world’s cotton, much of it in the Xinjiang region.

Washington has been steadily increasing pressure on China regarding forced labor accusations in the Xinjiang region. In March, proposed legislation in Congress would assume all products made in the region were done so with forced labor and would require certification that they have not been. In June, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which imposes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous regio​n, was signed into law. And in July, the federal government warned companies doing business in the region of “reputational, economic and legal risks.”

One of the sessions scheduled during next week’s PPAI Virtual Product Responsibility Summit will examine this issue and help participants identify forced labor in their supply chain. The session is set for September 17 from 12:45 – 1:45 pm CT. Get details and register for Summit at here.