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)