Commerce Minister Visits US for Trade

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh returned recently from a 10-day US tour cam­paigning to increase exports and foreign in­vestment and gain support for joining the World Trade Organization, a ministry statement reported.

It also said Cana­da plans to allow duty-free and quota-free im­ports of Cambo­dian garments and textiles starting next year.

The US currently lets Camb­odia export 9 percent more garments than previously allowed under an agreement that raises import quotas if there is evidence that workers’ conditions are improving.

But the quotas only apply to certain garments. Cham Prasidh urged US officials to shift its quotas to categories more commonly produced in Cam­bodia, said Ministry of Com­merce Secre­tary of State Khek Ravy.

During Cham Prasith’s visit, 70 Cambodia-made garment and tex­tile products were shown in an exhibition in Mia­mi, in the US state of Florida. Repre­sentatives from 400 companies attended, the statement said.

Khek Ravy said Cambodia must strive to increase foreign in­vestment and production be­fore 2005, when agreements that give the country favored tariff treatment will expire. “We have to think of how to produce as much goods as possible by the time we join the WTO,” Khek Ravy said. “Otherwise we will lose out.”

Commerce officials say Cam­bo­­dia boasts liberal investment laws and improving factory conditions. The US quota bonus can rise to 14 percent if there is further evidence of improved working conditions.

But a report by the Inter­na­tional Labor Organization on 65 factories showed factories routinely shortchange workers, force overtime and neglect proper safety measures.

(Additional reporting by Richard Sine)


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