Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Allows Jail Visit, But U.S. Wants More

BEIJING -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen said Thursday China had agreed to check five prisons alleged to be making export goods, but added Beijing must do more to keep its preferential trade status.

"Our governments have agreed on measures to ensure more effective prevention of the export of goods made with prison labor," Bentsen said in a speech at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Prison labor has featured prominently in U.S. debates over China's most favored nation, or MFN, trade status.

U.S. President Bill Clinton made renewal in June 1994 conditional on human rights improvements, and Bentsen said he was trying to tell the Chinese that they need to do more.

The accord on prison labor is a sign Beijing may be trying to satisfy Washington's requirements ahead of the MFN decision, which covers billions of dollars in exports each year. Bentsen said the agreement allowed for inspections of five prisons alleged to be producing exports.

The Clinton administration last September accused Beijing of foot-dragging on a 1992 agreement, saying China had denied access to plants the U.S. side wanted to inspect.

Washington said it had presented at least 31 cases of suspected prison labor export violations to China, and had long-standing requests to visit five forced labor facilities. By September, though, Beijing had permitted three visits, only one of which was to a prison on the U.S. list.

U.S. Customs over the last two years have blocked imports of diesel engines, socks, tea, machine presses and leather after determining they were made by forced labor.