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Cambodian garment makers appeal for support post EU trade access threat

Cambodian garment manufacturers have appealed to international buyers not to reject the country’s exports amid fears its access to key EU trade preferences could be threatened with the main opposition party being dissolved last month. The US stopped election support for Cambodia, besides the EU threatened trade preferences after the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved at the behest of the government of authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Nov. 16.

Garment and textile exports which generate $6 billion annually are the country’s largest export, largely due to years of growth. EU countries accounted for around 40 per cent of Cambodia’s exports in 2016 and the US accounted for 20 per cent, while China was third placed at around 6 per cent. Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), a representative of 600 factories that employ about 7,00,000 workers, appealed to foreign purchasers to continue supporting Cambodian factories.

GMAC says factory work had ‘lifted millions of people out of poverty’ in their country. Hun Sen, who has been pandering to garment workers in the run-up to the 2018 general election, has said workers would be the ones to suffer if the EU withdraws preferential trade terms.

China, a strong supporter of Hun Sen, has poured money into infrastructure and other investments in Cambodia that has emboldened Hun Sen to brush off criticism from Western donors, however, the EU and the US are key players in Cambodia’s exports and this fact alone gives leverage to call the shots. International brands have also come under greater scrutiny over their supply chains. Iñigo Sáenz Maestre, Press Officer of Sweden’s H&M group, one of the biggest buyers from Cambodia, has said they are concerned about the recent developments in the country.