Chinese Competition Looms Over WTO Entry

Cambodia has joined World Trade Organization members in their concern over China’s economic might, which could absorb the garment manufacturing in­dustry if safeguards aren’t taken to preserve the allure of Cam­bodia’s investment climate, a commerce official said Saturday.

Sok Siphana, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said topics discussed at the “Future of the Garment and Textile Industry After 2005” conference in Geneva raised concerns for Cambo­dia, which will lose its valuable garment quota in 2005.

“Cambodia as well as WTO mem­bers in the meeting were worried that products from China have flooded the world market, selling at a lower price than other exporters,” Sok Siphana said.

Cambodia, one of 20 developing countries rallying for WTO membership, joined last week’s conference as an observer. Sok Siphana said the US and Euro­pean Union also were worried that China’s huge presence in the garment sector was indicative of its larger effort to monopolize the global market.

To remain competitive without its quota, Sok Siphana said, Cam­bodia would con­­tinue to seek new ways to keep buyers’ interest.

“We have [good] working con­di­tions and respect the labor law…. That is one important strategy to compete with many other countries producing too much by forcing workers, violating the rights of workers and using hired children to work in factories,” he said.

The International Labor Orga­ni­zation’s strict garment factory mon­itoring program has created a worker-friendly environment  attractive to international buyers,  Sok Siphana said. “I’m looking at our country as the only one that cares about labor conditions and the labor law,” he said.

He warned that Cambodia would lose buyers’ confidence if companies didn’t pay more attention to environmental and labor laws. “Our pond is small. If our water is not clean, no one will like to drink our water,” he said.

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