Garment factory workers are facing this week’s EU decision on trade sanctions with trepidation: Most are in debt; they are being squeezed by new government policies to reduce costs for employers; and business at their factories seems to be slowing.
An estimated 800,000 workers in the industry could be affected as the EU announces whether to suspend duty-free trade with Cambodia under the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) deal over political and human rights concerns.
The EU has gone through a yearlong process to assess whether Cambodia has met EBA requirements, and has signaled that legal pressure on labor leaders and the dismantling of the country’s political opposition will be enough to warrant a suspension. It has demanded “real and credible improvement,” but the main opposition CNRP remains banned, and its president, Kem Sokha, is currently under trial for treason.
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