Bipartisan Bills Would Hit E-Commerce Like Fast Fashion

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, the government has abused Uyghurs. 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 by name, 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 Shein’s affordable product line. “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 had created 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,” a Shein spokeswoman said. “We have no manufacturers in the Xinjiang region.”

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

A second bill, introduced Wednesday, is the latest sign of the U.S. government seeking to assert more oversight on companies with ties to China.

That legislation, sponsored by Senators 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 United States.

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

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

The two bills need to be considered separately in the House and Senate, and are likely to face a long road to passage.

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


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