Cambodian workers in Europe’s fast fashion supply chains face tough future

Already hit by the impact of the pandemic on their industry, the removal of Cambodia’s trade preferences by the European Union in response to ‘serious and systematic violations’ of human rights will hurt them further. The Cambodian government can re-establish the preferences now by upholding fundamental rights and democratic space in the Kingdom, and ending attacks on people defending workers’ rights and civic freedoms, writes Business & Human Rights Resource Centre Executive Director Phil Bloomer.

On 12 August 2020, the European Union partially suspended Cambodia’s trade preferences. For around 20% of exports, including from the economically significant garment, footwear, and travel goods sector, Cambodian exports will be subject to increased tariffs into the EU market (from zero to standard WTO world tariffs), removing substantial competitive advantage, despite the very low wages paid to women workers in cloths and footwear manufacture.

For the more than 800,000 Cambodians employed in the country’s garment sector, who already face reduced wages or lost jobs as the industry reels from the global pandemic, the consequences could be disastrous.

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