As EU decision on tariffs looms, Cambodia garment industry gets nervous

Factories hit back at international brands' 'disappointing' criticism of human rights progress.

A rare public spat has broken out between Cambodian garment factories and the international brands they supply as concerns grow that the country will soon lose its tariff-free access to Europe.

Less than two weeks remain until the European Union decides whether it will revoke Cambodia’s trade privileges, granted under the Everything But Arms scheme for least-developed nations, due to the country’s “systematic” violations of human and labor rights.

Losing EBA privileges would add a 12% tariff to Cambodian apparel exports to the EU and between 8% and 17% for shoes. Europe is a crucial market for the country’s $9.5 billion apparel and footwear export sector, and experts warn that other countries competing in the “cutthroat” world of low-cost apparel will be keen to snatch market share from Cambodia.

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