U.S. bans cotton imports from China producer

The U.S banned cotton from one of China's largest cotton producers on Wednesday (December 2),

A ban will be slapped on both cotton and cotton products from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC).

The XPCC is a quasi-military organization that the U.S says uses forced labor of detained Uighur Muslims.

The move is in line with the Trump adminstration's hardening approach to China, and increased pressure on China's western region of Xinjiang, just weeks before president-elect Joe Biden is due to take office.

It's expected to lock Biden into a position, making it harder for him to ease U.S. China tensions.

Homeland Security secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said the "Made in China" stamp should serve as a "warning label," adding that, "the cheap cotton goods you may be buying for family and friends during this season of giving - if coming from China - may have been made by slave labor in some of the most egregious human rights violations existing today."

The U.N estimates that there are about 1 million Muslims being held in camps in Xinjiang, but China says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.

Major brands including Gap, Patagonia and Zara who have spoken to Reuters, say they did not source from factories in Xinjiang, but couldn't confirm that their supply chains were free of cotton picked from the northwestern province.

The U.S border agency also said a region-wide Xinjiang cotton import ban was still being studied.

U.S. apparel and textile makers have criticized a broader ban as impossible to enforce.

But on Wednesday clothing and retail groups welcomed the XPCC-specific ban, the business and paramilitary entity accounted for 30 % of all of the cotton produced in China in 2015.