The president of the Free Trade Union has appealed to the US House of Representatives to enact a piece of trade preference legislation that would provide duty-free access for apparel imports from Cambodia, according to a letter obtained yesterday.
Dated Jan 9, Chea Mony, president of the FTU, appealed to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, to pass the new draft legislation, which was introduced into the US House of Representatives on Nov 18.
“I think that granting tax exemption on Cambodian garment products…will fuel the actual income of thousands of Cambodian workers through job creation,” Mr Mony said in the letter.
He added that favorable tax legislation would help “tens of thousands of Cambodian workers get jobs in the textile industry, restoring and promoting their family living conditions.”
As a result of favorable tariff legislation with the US, Mr Mony said that one of the many positives would be a rise in real wages.
“In the garment industry better incomes will also reach the workers’ family. Therefore, in order to join in efforts to reduce poverty in Cambodia, as well as to aid the country’s development, I would like to request that Ms Pelosi considers and decides upon the mechanism of tax exemption for garments being exported to the US from the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he added.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said that despite the support for the legislation domestically, many opposition voices still exist internationally.
“For every letter of support we have we have also seen a letter of objection,” he said.
Mr Loo explained that numerous letters protesting favorable tax conditions for Cambodia have been sent by apparel associations in Africa who are scared of a more competitive market.
“I think it is easy to say there has been as much opposition as support, if not more,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mr Loo said it remained likely that some form of trade friendly legislation for Cambodia would be adopted by the US Congress.
The plea from Mr Mony comes just a month after five major apparel associations from the US wrote to Congress to support the earliest possible enactment of the legislation that would provide duty-free access for apparel imports from Cambodia.
On Nov 18 nine major US clothing companies including Gap and Levis also sent a letter to the US legislature urging it to afford Cambodia trade benefits.
Cambodia’s garment sector has been reeling after months of financial turmoil due to weak demand from markets like the US and Europe. Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and scores of factories have been closed, according to the government.