From all indications, Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry enjoys the full support of the Biden administration when he jets around the world in his efforts to negotiate regarding carbon emissions with world leaders.
Some Congressional Republicans are now asking questions about whether Kerry’s climate agenda runs counter to the U.S. international mission to promote human rights. They are demanding information about Kerry’s lobbying efforts against anti-slave labor legislation pending before Congress. There are concerns that he may be moving against that law to increase his bargaining power with the Communist Chinese Party in climate talks.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act quickly passed the Senate by a bipartisan voice vote in July but has since hit roadblocks in the House. The act would ban imports of Chinese products into the U.S., which use forced Uyghur labor inside China. It is expected that the ban would inflame relations with the Chinese government, given international criticism of documented abuses of the Muslim Uyghur minority population in the country’s Xinjiang province.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) have written a letter showing concern that Kerry is “downplaying the genocide” because he would like to import solar panels into the U.S. that are produced using forced labor in China that would violate the proposed law.
Human rights advocates have been speculating whether the law has stalled in the House because of Kerry’s influence. Rubio and Smith have argued that Kerry is actively impeding President Biden’s promise to put human rights protections as a primary focus of his foreign policy.
As a candidate and as president, Biden has sharply condemned the Chinese government’s abuse of the Uyghurs, calling it a “genocide.” The administration has placed economic sanctions on the Chinese solar panel industry.
In testimony before Congress in May, Kerry said that he considered the condition of the Uyghur people to not be “in his lane.” He said that his “lane” is to get Chinese action “concerning climate itself.”
However, Kerry has also spoken about the interconnection between human rights abuses and climate change. He has said that when Chinese solar panels are being sanctioned, it “makes it harder for them to sell them.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that she does not know if Biden supports the proposed ban on Chinese goods produced using forced Uyghur labor.