Japan, U.S. to launch body to tackle human rights abuses

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, left, and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai

The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to jointly establish a new organization to eliminate human rights abuses from international supply chains, it has been learned.

Spurred by such issues as forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, the new body will aim to promulgate within Japan regulations that Washington has strengthened to tackle such problems, according to several government officials.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to sign a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of the organization during his visit to the United States.

The envisioned task force will comprise the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on the Japanese side, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the State Department, the Commerce Department and the Labor Department on the U.S. side. Japan’s industry ministry and the USTR will liaise as co-chairs.

The new body will likely facilitate the sharing of supply chain-related regulations and policies between authorities and companies with the aim of eradicating human rights abuses — including forced labor and racial and religious discrimination — while analyzing the impact of the regulations on business activities.

In recent years, the U.S. has taken measures to exclude goods produced in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region from its supply chains, claiming that members of the Uighur ethnic minority in that region are being subjected to forced labor.

In 2021, the United States suspended imports of goods produced by Fast Retailing Co. — operator of Uniqlo casual wear shops — saying there was insufficient proof that the company’s suppliers were not involved in forced labor. Washington also enforced the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in June to ban, in principle, imports from the region.

Japanese companies have been calling on the economy ministry to provide more information to avoid potential problems, such as a ban on the export of their goods to the United States.