US denies Cambodia full quota of garment imports

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Thu Jan 13 17:08:37 PST 2000

12 January 2000 US denies Cambodia full quota of garment imports PHNOM PENH: The US has declined to award Cambodia a full 14 percent increase in its quota on garment imports ostensibly due to lingering labour-standard problems, the Cambodian Minister of Commerce said on Tuesday. Cham Prasidh said the value of Cambodia's garment exports in 1999 was $606 million, a 60 percent increase over the previous year's $378 million. But he said manufacturers will have to find new markets in Europe if the rate of increase is to be sustained. The US will raise its quotas on some Cambodian garments by 5 percent, with the possibility of an increase at the end of the first half of the year, he said. He attributed the US reluctance to pressure from US trade unions. "They (the US) have answered that labour conditions are not yet perfect, that we're not complying entirely with labour standards." "So they gave us five percent with the possibility of increasing that in the first six months of the year," he said. Cambodia's garment industry has grown to become the country's top export earner in recent years. There are now 178 factories, many owned by investors from the region, employing more than 100,000 compared with only some 70 factories at the end of 1997. The US has been Cambodia's biggest export market by far, but US authorities imposed their first quotas in January last year, setting limits on 12 categories of clothes. But the US had said those quotas would be raised by up to 14 percent if there was concrete improvement in working conditions in Cambodia's garment f actories. Cham Prasidh said the US had acknowledged efforts made by the government and garment manufacturers to improve conditions, but had still found problems. He said: "It's not really labour standards that has prevented the US from giving us the full quota. We feel we're under pressure from US politics. There are some unions which try to prevent the granting of the reward quotas to us because they're worried about job losses." "They're playing politics but we're still hopeful they will reconsider their position." He said manufacturers will have to find new markets in the European Union if garment industry growth is to be maintained. "Our exports to the European Union are going duty free and quota free, that's why there is this kind of boom in the garment industry again towards the European Union," he said. "But for the USA it's stable now, we won't be able to increase much more there, so it depends on whether manufacturers can find buyers in Europe or not." "European buyers are buying small quantities compared to American buyers, so it's a question of being able to find buyers in Europe. The total (value of exports this year) will depend on that." For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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