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Tipsheet

Is President Joe Biden Turning His Back on Uyghur Law He Himself Signed?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In December of last year, President Joe Biden finally signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, with little fanfare and not much of a statement. That's not to say there hadn't been drama beforehand, though, with delays in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sending it over to the Senate. A year later, there may be even more drama, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned in a recent press release. Rubio has been a crucial voice in standing up to China over the Uyghur genocide and other issues, and cosponsored the bipartisan legislation which overwhelmingly passed both chambers.

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According to another Rubio's press release from when the law was signed, the law "ensure[s] that goods made with the slave labor of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in the People’s Republic of China do not enter the United States."

As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, an investigation from the U.S. Commerce Department found that four Chinese solar manufacturers have managed to evade tariffs by moving operations to Southeast Asia. 

It's not as if one couldn't see this coming. The report includes a warning from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin, who had said that Beijing would take "all necessary measures to uphold the rights and interests" of their companies and that the United State's "protectionism" would "disrupt and undermine" supply changes and climate change cooperation. 

Where this law and the Biden administration comes into play is that due to the administration's "previous decision to place a two-year tariff moratorium on Chinese solar companies, these companies will evade punishment, despite their dishonest actions and complicity in human rights abuses and the ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang," according to Rubio's press release.

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The WSJ report also mentions that the "outcome of the probe won't lead to immediate increased in solar tariffs because in June the president implemented a two-year suspension of duties to give importers time to make adjustments."

Given such a move from the administration, it's worth wondering about the president and his administration's commitment to the law that he himself signed when Congress sent it to his desk with overwhelming support. 

"Everyone knew Chinese solar companies were evading tariffs, just like everyone now knows China’s supply chains are dependent on slave labor. The only question is why the White House is going around its own Commerce Department and against my Uyghur Forced Labor Policy Act to continue to allow products made by slaves into our country," Rubio said in a statement. "President Biden should be focused on revitalizing American industry, not continuing our dependence on slave-made goods in the name of arbitrary climate goals."

Rubio has reason to say 'I told you so,' and not merely because of his commitment to the cause of standing up against China. In a June 2022 letter, Rubio and eight other Senate colleagues warned that the Biden administration’s solar tariff moratorium would potentially ultimately contradict the results of the Commerce Department’s investigation.

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Biden has talked a big talk about being tough on China and Xi Jinping, while touting his relationship with the communist leader. It's all laughable, though, given how Biden has been anything but. This not only applies to the legislation and administration policies mentioned above, but also China's "zero-COVID" policies and how the country unleashed the virus onto the world. The two leaders met last month, but there was no evidence that "zero-COVID" came up, and the Biden administration has also been pretty much shamefully quiet on the protests occurring in China as a result, other than some muted statements during press briefings


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