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Wal-Mart galvanizes Uzbek anti-child labor push   

Bentonville, Ark. – Putting some heft behind the efforts of a coalition of manufacturing and retail groups to end forced child labor in Uzbekistan, global retail leader Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has instructed its vendors to cease sourcing cotton from that central Asian nation.

Wal-Mart said its supplier ban on cotton and cotton materials from Uzbekistan is part of “an effort to persuade the Uzbek government to end the use of forced child labor in cotton harvesting.”

“We have formed an unprecedented coalition, representing 90% of the U.S. purchases of cotton and cotton-based merchandise, to bring these appalling child labor conditions to an end,” said Rajan Kamalanathan, vp of ethical standards. “There is no tolerance for forced child labor in the Wal-Mart supply chain.”

The coalition – formed by the American Association of Footwear and Apparel, Retail Industry Leaders Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel – in August demanded via the Embassy of Uzbekistan a cessation of the practice. The Uzbek government responded with a National Action Plan with steps to end forced child labor on cotton. “Once these steps can be independently verified, Wal-Mart will modify the direction to its suppliers,” the retailer said today.

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