Cambodian Exports Charged Unusually High Tariffs by US

Cambodian exports are charged higher tariffs by the US than almost any other country in the world, a Washington-based think tank asserted last month.

Cambodian goods face an average tariff rate of 15.8 percent, com­pared to a world average of 1.6 percent, and a European and Japanese average of about          1.5 percent, the Progressive Policy In­stitute said. The average is higher than all but three countries: Mongolia, Palau and Cape Verde, the report said.

The report, written by economist Ed Gresser to Roland Eng, Cam­bodian Ambassador to the US, does not suggest an intentional US effort to discriminate against Cambodia. Instead it says Cambodia’s “peculiar treatment re­sults from the structure of the US tariff system.”

US tariffs are low or zero on na­tural resources, like metals or oil, and on high-tech goods like computers, Gresser said. They are al­so low on manufactured goods like toys and furniture. But they are very high—up to 48 percent —on clothes and textiles, which are Cambodia’s largest exports.

The US has three special programs that exempt countries in Latin America and Africa from many tariffs, the report says. The programs make clothes and fabric largely duty-free in those re­gions, Gresser said.

“So the countries hit hardest are those that rely heavily on cloth­ing exports, but are not covered by a special program,” Gresser said. “Most are least-developed Asian countries: The main ones are Cambo­dia, Bangladesh, the Mal­dive Is­lands, Mongolia, [Bur­ma] and Ne­pal.”

The US has collected $122 million in tariffs on $780 million in im­ports from Cambodia this year, the report says. That’s more than the US has collected from countries such as Singapore and Saudi Arabia, each of which exported more than $10 billion to the US this year.

Cambodia will be able to make ta­r­iff requests if it joins the World Trade Organization as ex­­pected later this year, the re­port says.

Garment manufacturing and US Embassy officials said Tues­day that they were still evaluating the institute’s report.

The findings are consistent with those of activist organizations such as Oxfam America, which claims that the developed world’s trade barriers are highest for the labor-intensive agricultural and manufactured goods in which less-developed countries specialize. Textiles are the largest single source of manufactured exports from developing countries by value, an Oxfam report says.


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