Republicans accuse John Kerry of lobbying against Uyghur forced labor ban as US, China enter climate agreement

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Republicans have taken aim at Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry after the U.S. and China entered into an agreement Wednesday to tackle climate change, accusing him of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. 

“It doesn’t get worse than John Kerry,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Fox News. “He’s willing to accept Chinese slave labor to promote his radical climate agenda. What happened to defending human rights?”

U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry speaks during a joint China and U.S. statement on a declaration enhancing climate action in the 2020s at the COP26 climate change conference at the SEC Nov. 10, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. 
(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Haley’s comments come just one day after the U.S. and China agreed to work together to lower greenhouse gas emissions, a significant step as both nations are responsible for roughly 40% of the world’s annual carbon footprint.

Under the agreement, the U.S. and China would share technology and policy developments in order to lower emissions in accordance with goals set in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

But Kerry raised eyebrows when asked by a reporter whether or not he discussed the issue of Chinese forced labor used in developing technologies, like the production of solar panels.

Former GOP Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting Nov. 6, 2021 in Las Vegas
(Fox News )

The climate envoy said U.S. concerns regarding forced labor have been “articulated” to Chinese officials, but added, “That’s not my lane here.”

“My job is to be the climate guy and stay focused on trying to move the climate agenda forward,” Kerry said.

President Biden has made combating climate change a chief priority of his presidency, but last month he also said that defending human rights is at “the center” of his administration’s foreign policy agenda.

A spokesperson for the State Department defended Kerry’s stance saying, “Secretary Kerry has a 37-year record as a senator and secretary of state standing up for human rights and defending democracy.

“As Secretary Kerry has said from the start, the United States and China have mutual interests in solving the climate crisis while there’s still time, even when we fundamentally disagree on other critical issues,” the spokesman added. 

China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, speaks during a joint China and U.S. statement on a declaration enhancing climate action in the 2020s on at the SEC on November 10, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

This is not the first time the climate envoy has been accused of disregarding known human rights abuses.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio accused Kerry of “actively working against” the Uyghur Forced Labor Act, a bipartisan bill that would block all imports on goods made using Uyghur forced labor.

The bill, introduced by Rubio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., passed in the Senate in July but has since sat in the House.

“The Biden administration and some Democrats are so desperate for a climate deal with the Chinese Communist Party that they are willing to ignore the regime’s use of slave labor,” Rubio said in an op-ed for Fox News.

“This is not a partisan issue, or at least it shouldn’t be,” he added.

Rubio has called for Kerry’s removal as climate envoy. 

Fox News could not immediately reach Merkley’s office for comment. 

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