From stitching sequins to printing logos, making clothes can be a delicate, fiddly process. Even so, Cambodian factories swiftly fulfil huge orders placed by Western firms. Clothing is the country’s main export, bringing in some $5bn a year, and Europe its largest market. More than 40% of Cambodia’s goods head there. Under a concessionary regime called “Everything But Arms” (eba), all Cambodian products enjoy tariff-free access to the European market.
In return the Cambodian government is supposed to respect the democratic and humanitarian principles of the un charter and the eu’s Lisbon treaty, as well as the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ilo) on workers’ rights. Unfortunately, it does nothing of the sort. So the European Commission is starting its own delicate, fiddly process: to withdraw Cambodia’s preferential tariff regime.