Bipartisan Bills Would Change a 100-Year-Old Trade Law

But Shein has faced scrutiny for some of its business practices, such as claims that it has copied designs and used cotton in its clothes from Xinjiang, a region in China where U.S. officials say Uyghurs have been abused by the government. Investors anticipate an initial public offering from Shein this year, which has only increased questions about the company.

The bill introduced Thursday does not mention the company, but “Shein is probably the most obvious example of a company that has exploited the de minimis loophole the most,” Mr. Blumenauer said.

“Maybe there’s a modest financial savings to consumers, but at what price?” he said about the affordable items Shein sells. “I just think that we’ve made a determination that we’re going to respect environment, human rights and product safety, even if it’s a cost of a few more pennies.”

Shein said in a statement that it had “zero tolerance for forced labor” and has implemented a system to comply with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The system includes a “code of conduct, independent audits, robust tracing technology and third-party testing. We have no manufacturers in the Xinjiang region,” a Shein spokeswoman said.

“Since entering the U.S. market in 2012, Shein has been compliant with U.S. tax and customs laws,” she added.

This current bill is the latest sign of the U.S. government seeking to assert more oversight on companies with ties to China.

A bill introduced Wednesday by Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, and Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, called for barring Chinese companies from using the de minimis rule and requiring more information on packages that enter the U.S.

In March, U.S. lawmakers questioned TikTok’s chief executive in a five-hour hearing about the platform’s ties to China. Other companies like the e-commerce retailer Temu have also faced scrutiny about its ties to China. This month, Mr. Rubio sent a letter to other lawmakers warning them of Shein’s business practices and lobbying efforts.

“People were less concerned about China then than they are now,” William Reinsch, senior adviser at Kelley, Drye & Warren LLP and former president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said of 2016, when the law was last adjusted.

The bills need to be considered separately in the House of Representatives and Senate. Both likely face a long road ahead before they have a chance of being passed.

Meanwhile, Shein has gone on the charm offensive in recent months, becoming more vocal about its sustainability practices and its work with independent designers — two topics where it faces lots of questions.


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