Cambodia’s preferred trade status with the European Union is at risk. This allowed Cambodian textile and apparel products to enter the European market duty free. The EU is reviewing Cambodia’s eligibility for this preference.
Cambodia's deteriorating respect for the rights of workers will be an important part of the EU's review process. Lately, however, progress on workers' rights in Cambodia has slowed significantly. While the government still allows some independent unions and workers'-rights organisations to operate, the space for them to advocate effectively is shrinking.
A number of labor union and human rights leaders have been targeted for official harassment, and some have been arrested or criminally charged. In several high-profile cases, labor leaders who were charged with baseless crimes in 2013 still have those charges pending against them.
A law restricting freedom of association, adopted in 2015, restricts the activities of a wide range of non-governmental organisations, including those advocating on behalf of workers. Another law adopted in 2016 places onerous constraints on those who wish to form new unions and sharply curtails the rights of union members to strike or engage in public demonstrations.
Suppliers in Cambodia provide western–based apparel and footwear companies with rapid, high-volume production at low costs. These suppliers employ more than 7,00,000 people and represent 63 per cent of the nation’s export income.