The EU Commission decided on Wednesday to partially withdraw Cambodia’s preferential access to the European market under the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) programme because of continued and serious human rights violations. This means that instead of preferential tariffs, the usual EU tariffs on certain clothing and footwear will apply from 12th August 2020 – an increase of 12 and 16 percent, respectively. The Cambodian Garment Manufacturers Association (GMAC) is “dissatisfied” with the EU’s decision, as it could potentially jeopardise the jobs of 90,000 garment workers, most of them women.
Since the trade margins for garments are already stretched to the limit, especially in the international market, only a few international clients will be prepared to continue without the trade agreement and to absorb an increase in costs of 12 or 16 percent. The GMAC represents the interests of the clothing and travel industries, which account for 75 percent of Cambodia’s total exports of trade goods and about 90 percent of exports to the EU, and therefore sees the industry’s future in a bleak light.