Fearful the US may revoke a special trade privilege, Cambodian-American businessman Ted Ngoy has called on the public and private sectors to show a united front and a willingness to improve labor conditions.
At the meeting, planned for Thursday afternoon, Ted Ngoy hopes to bring together Suy Sem, the minister of Social Affairs, Labor and Veterans Affairs; Sok An, acting Commerce minister and co-minister of the Council of Ministers; and labor union and garment industry representatives.
A Council of Ministers official said Sok An would attend.
A US labor union, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, lodged a complaint in June with the US Trade Representative, calling for the revocation of Generalized System of Preferences privileges. The AFL-CIO is concerned about workers’ rights in garment factories.
GSP gives special import tariffs for more than 6,000 products. Although GSP does not apply to garments, the US considers Cambodia’s labor record in its annual review of the status.
Ted Ngoy, who was a member of the lobby committee to win US trade privileges, said Thursday he believes the meeting will show the AFL-CIO and the US government the country is committed to enforcing the labor law.
At the end of Thursday’s gathering, he said, he will propose setting up a national committee to mediate labor disputes.
Boeun Eu, an economic adviser to the Council of Ministers, said Tuesday the government will let the Social Affairs ministry—the main target of the AFL-CIO’s criticism—handle the complaint.
A spokesman for the Garment Manufacturers’ Association, Roger Tan, said he would probably attend the meeting.
“As far as we know, as we can tell, all our members have followed the rules,” he said, noting there are factories that don’t belong to his group. “One bad apple can spoil the barrel, what can you do?”