Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh on Monday blasted unscrupulous manufacturers in neighboring nations who he says are “stealing” a portion of Cambodia’s export quota to the US.
Returning from a weeklong visit to the US, Cham Prasidh asserted that fraudulent “made in Cambodia” labels are being sewn into garments made elsewhere and shipped to the US.
“About 30 percent of Cambodia’s quota levels [on textile exports to the US market] have been stolen by neighboring countries,” the minister told reporters at Pochentong Airport, noting that records kept here of what Cambodia exported to the US were different than the records of the US Customs office.
Additionally, Cham Prasidh said US officials told him Cambodian labor conditions had not yet reached the level the government agreed to aim for, and that bonuses on quota limits would not be awarded at this time, Agence France-Presse reported.
These bonuses—part of an incentive agreement reached earlier this year between the government and the US linking labor conditions to trade benefits—could mean millions of dollars to the government and to garment manufacturers in Cambodia.
Cham Prasidh on Monday did not dwell on the lack of agreement with US officials but instead focused on the underhanded garment manufacturers, though he did not disclose what countries they are located in.
He claimed that some foreign companies shipped their products with fake certificates of origin claiming the items came from Cambodia-based factories. “Their documents, seals and signatures of Undersecretary of State Ok Boung were all fake,” he said.
He said many T-shirts and jeans are exported to the US falsely labeled as coming from Cambodia, and noted that export quotas of those two categories of clothing have already exceeded limits. “We haven’t approved that many [documents] for the two items,” Cham Prasidh said.
He said the US Customs office promised the Cambodian delegation that it will investigate the faked documents and reassess the number of Cambodia-made garments imported to the US.
Industry leaders expressed disappointment by the revelations of fraudulent exports by other Asian countries. “Of course nobody is happy about this,” said Roger Tan, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia. “But this is a government and government business, not the industry’s. We can do nothing to prevent this.”
According to the bilateral quota agreement, if the industry respects labor standards agreed upon by the government and the US, the ceilings on specified export items will be increased by up to 14 percent each year as a bonus, in addition to the 6 percent annual increase called for in the agreement. Cham Prasidh said that he had expected the US to promise the 14 percent increase.
(Additional reporting by Yuko Maeda)