The Trump administration announced an import ban on all cotton and tomato products from western China’s Xinjiang region Wednesday over allegations they are made with forced labor from detained Uighur Muslims.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the order applies to raw fibers, apparel, and textiles made from Xinjiang-grown cotton, as well as canned tomatoes, sauces, seeds, and other tomato products from the region, even if processed or manufactured in third countries.
The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), estimates about $9 billion of cotton products and $10 million worth of tomato products were imported from China into the United States in the past year.
DHS acting deputy secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli told a news briefing the order sends a message to importers: “DHS will not tolerate forced labor of any kind” and companies should eradicate Xinjiang products from their supply chains.
The move is the latest by the Trump administration in its final days to harden the U.S. position against Beijing, erecting economic penalties that would make it more difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to ease U.S.-China tensions after he takes office Jan. 20.
In December, Congress passed the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which assumes that all goods manufactured in Xinjiang are made with forced labor and therefore banned, unless CBP certifies otherwise.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his final days in office, has been weighing a determination as to whether forced labor in Xinjiang constitutes an “atrocity” or labeling it “genocide,” which analysts say would have significant implications for relations with China.
The region wide import ban follows a move to block cotton imports from China’s largest producer, the military-linked Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). Both will have a big impact on cotton production in Xinjiang, which produces as much as 20% of the world’s supply of the commodity.
Cotton futures prices fell slightly Wednesday, but traders attributed the drop to profit-taking after prices hit a two year high on a U.S. production outlook cut.
CBP officials said some 43 shipments of cotton-based products have been detained at U.S. entry ports since the XPCC ban was announced.
The U.S. apparel industry had previously criticized a broad ban as impossible to enforce. A coalition of apparel and retail groups said Tuesday in a joint statement that members were working to push forced labor from their supply chains but hoped to work with CBP “to make sure that enforcement is smart, transparent, targeted and effective.”
The United Nations cites what it says are credible reports that 1 million Muslims held in camps have been put to work in Xinjiang and faith leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, are taking place.
China denies mistreating Uighurs and says the camps are vocational training centers needed to fight extremism.
The Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement the forced labor issue was a “political lie” and vowed to take actions to safeguard the rights of its companies.
“The U.S. side resorts to pressure, sanctions and other means to suppress Xinjiang enterprises and undercut Xinjiang’s stability, development and prosperity,” the statement said.
Chicago to create largest ‘guaranteed basic income’ program
The Chicago City Council is poised to vote this week on what would be one of the nation’s largest basic income programs, giving 5,000 low-income households $500 per month each using federal funding from the pandemic stimulus package.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has proposed the more than $31 million program as part of her 2022 budget, which the city council is scheduled to consider on Wednesday. The one-year pilot, funded by the nearly $2 billion Chicago received from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, is supported by most of city’s 50 aldermen. But it has received pushback from the 20-member Black Caucus, which has urged Lightfoot to redirect the money to violence prevention programs.
Lightfoot has said the program is motivated by her own childhood memories of hardship while growing up in Ohio. “I knew what it felt like to live check to check. When you’re in need, every bit of income helps,” she wrote in a tweet announcing the plan earlier this month.
Basic income programs have been spreading across the country since Stockton, Calif., started providing monthly stipends with no strings attached to 125 of its residents in 2019. Those stipends resulted in more full-time employment and improved mental and emotional well-being among recipients, according to preliminary findings reported earlier this year by researchers who helped design the program.
Michael Tubbs, who implemented the program as then-mayor of Stockton, noted that recipients’ largest expenditure was food, making up at least a third of spending each month, according to the report. “I had no idea so many people in my area were hungry,” Tubbs said.
Since Stockton’s program launched, about 40 other cities have considered or started similar efforts to target economic insecurity within their boundaries, according to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, including Denver, Newark, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, New Orleans and Compton, Calif. A program in Los Angeles will provide 2,000 residents with a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for a year.
The surge of interest has been fueled in part by the influx of money that cities have received from the coronavirus stimulus and the formation of Mayors for Universal Basic Income, an advocacy coalition that Tubbs founded last year.
Critics worry that guaranteed income programs will discourage people from finding jobs and drain the labor force, a particular concern amid the record job openings in the country this year, said Michael Faulkender, an assistant treasury secretary for economic policy during the Trump administration. Last week, the National Federation of Independent Business reported that 51 percent of small business owners have job openings they cannot fill, which more than doubles the historical average of 22 percent.
“There are still millions upon millions of low-skilled jobs out there, and you have small business owners who can’t find workers to join their companies,” said Faulkender, who teaches finance at the University of Maryland. Proposals like the one in Chicago feed the “process of reducing the willingness of people to participate in the workforce,” he said.
Opposition to federal entitlement programs, such as rent vouchers and food stamps, has been waged for decades, but advocates like Tubbs say that today, “the climate has changed.” Economic blows struck by recent natural disasters and the pandemic have proven that “the economy doesn’t work for a vast number of Americans,” he said.
The inequalities in Chicago are particularly stark. A 2019 report by an economic inequality task force created by the mayor’s office found that 500,000 Chicagoans — about 18 percent of the population — are living below or at the poverty level. Nearly half the city’s households do not have a basic safety net to help in emergencies or to prepare for future needs, such as homeownership or higher education. A quarter of households have more debt than income.
Lightfoot says the effects of the despair can be seen in recent drops in life expectancy among the poorest and the current spike in street violence throughout the city. Harish Patel, executive director of Economic Security For Illinois, an advocacy group that helped coordinate the report, says the pandemic has made the disparities worse.
The 5,000 recipients, who must be adults and make less than $35,000 a year, will be chosen randomly for the program. Chicago Alderman Gilbert Villegas said the city plans to track the recipients’ expenditures during the first six months and then provide more targeted assistance, such as help with paying heating bills or for food. The costs of supporting the program, he said, “is well worth the investment” when weighed against daily costs of poverty in Chicago, such as gun violence and incarceration.
Chicago’s basic income proposal dates back two years when a small group of aldermen led by Villegas proposed a resolution that would have established a $50 million basic income program. The subject is particularly important to Villegas, who considers himself “a product” of similar assistance. Following the death of his father when Villegas was 8 years old, his mother received $800 in monthly survivor benefits from Social Security until he and his younger brother turned 18. The funds supported child-care costs and gave her the freedom to work just one job, rather than two, so she could be with her sons more often.
California unemployment claims one-third of nation’s total
New statistics undercut Gov. Gavin Newsom’s theme of the state “roaring back” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
California added only 47,400 jobs in September, a stubborn statistic that is poking at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s theme of the state “roaring back” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The California Employment Development Department released its September jobs numbers Friday, showing nonfarm jobs in California’s 11 major industries totaled 16,669,900 in September; a net gain of 47,400 jobs since August. The state also revised August’s data downward to 94,700 jobs month-over-month. The largest net gain was in the service sector, which added 23,300 jobs last month.
At an unemployment rate of 7.5%, California has the highest percentage of unemployed job seekers in the nation, tied with Nevada. The U.S. rate in September was 4.8%.
Unemployment claims shot up last week to 80,700, which was one-third of the nation’s total claims.
Newsom took an optimistic tone despite the slowing jobs numbers
“Our economic recovery continues to make promising progress, with 812,000 new jobs this year and regaining over 63 percent of those jobs we lost to the pandemic,” he said in a release. “As we continue averaging record job creation, our work is more important than ever to get more Californians back on the job and support those hardest hit by the pandemic.”
At its worst, California lost more than 2.7 million jobs amid pandemic-caused business closures in March and April 2020. Since then, the state has regained 1.7 million, or 63.5%.
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey says ‘hyperinflation’ will happen soon in the U.S. and the world
- Twitter co-founder and crypto advocate Jack Dorsey weighed in Friday on escalating inflation in the U.S., saying things are going to get considerably worse.
- “It will happen in the US soon, and so the world,” he tweeted.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey weighed in on escalating inflation in the U.S., saying things are going to get considerably worse.
“Hyperinflation is going to change everything,” Dorsey tweeted Friday night. “It’s happening.”
The tweet comes with consumer price inflation running near a 30-year high in the U.S. and growing concern that the problem could be worse that policymakers have anticipated.
On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that inflation pressures “are likely to last longer than previously expected,” noting that they could run “well into next year.” The central bank leader added that he expects the Fed soon to begin pulling back on the extraordinary measures it has provided to help the economy that critics say have stoked the inflation run.
In addition to overseeing a social media platform that has 206 million active daily users, Dorsey is a strong bitcoin advocate. He has said that Square, the debit and credit card processing platform that Dorsey co-founded, is looking at getting into mining the cryptocurrency. Square also owns some bitcoin and facilitates trading in it.
Responding to user comments, Dorsey added Friday that he sees the inflation problem escalating around the globe. “It will happen in the US soon, and so the world,” he tweeted. Dorsey is currently both the CEO of Twitter and Square.
It’s one thing to call for faster inflation, but it may be surprising to some that Dorsey used the word hyperinflation, a condition of rapidly rising prices that can ruin currencies and bring down whole economies.
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