The US will from now on block shipments of clothing, computer parts and other products made in China’s Xinjiang region.
This is the latest step by the Trump administration to put pressure on China over its treatment of Xinjiang’s Uighur Muslims.
The US said the blocked manufacturing sites use forced or prison labour, reports the BBC.
China is believed to have detained more than one million Muslims from Xinjiang, for “security reasons”.
Chinese authorities insist its programmes, which include transferring detainees to manufacturing sites and providing job training and education, are all necessary to combat terrorism and separatist threats.
Washington and Beijing have repeatedly clashed over these activities, with the US accusing the country of human rights abuses.
The new US orders “send a clear message to the international community that we will not tolerate the illicit, inhumane, and exploitative practices of forced labour in US supply chains”, Mark A Morgan, acting commissioner of US Customers and Border Protection agency, said.
“The Trump administration will not stand idly by and allow foreign companies to subject vulnerable workers to forced labour while harming American businesses that respect human rights and the rule of law.”
The move falls short of a more wide-reaching ban that the US had considered. However, officials are saying they are still exploring all possibilities.
“Applying sanctions to a region as opposed to a company or a facility, we are giving that more legal analysis,” Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli said.
“We want to make sure that once we proceed that it will stick, so to speak.”
China produces about 20% of the world’s cotton with most of it coming from Xinjiang.
The region is also a major source of petrochemicals and other goods that feed into Chinese factories.
This month, US entertainment giant Disney came under fire for shooting parts of its new Mulan film in Xinjiang and crediting Chinese authorities in that region for their assistance in the production.