Frustrated by the US government’s delay to decide on garment quotas, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Thursday that further stalling could hurt Cambodia’s largest industry.
“We have not received any information on quotas from the US government,” Cham Prasidh said. A final decision on bonus quotas for the year 2001—a production incentive linked to Cambodia’s labor conditions—was supposed to be made before Dec 1.
According to the three-year agreement signed between the US and Cambodia in January 1999, export ceilings are imposed on 12 different textile items.
Cambodia can enjoy an automatic 6 percent increase in exports every year. In addition, the US may grant another bonus quota of up to 14 percent per year if labor conditions are satisfactory. The treaty states the decision on quotas for the following year must be made before Dec 1.
In 2000, Cambodia received a total of 9 percent in bonuses; 5 percent in May and 4 percent in October.
According to the US Embassy, the final consultation on labor conditions was made in October by a US Department of Labor delegation, but there’s been no word on the quota.
Cham Prasidh said the delay might be due to the drawn-out US presidential election. Labor advocates still claim the US should not grant the full 14 percent bonus quota this year, saying conditions have not improved markedly in a labor industry that was rocked by dozens of protests last year.
“We start seeing a new form of [labor code] violations—more employers are trying to buy groups of union members,” said Seng Phally, executive director of the Cambodia Labor Organization.
The garment sector is Cambodia’s largest industry, representing more than 90 percent of the country’s $600 million export volume in 1999.
Roger Tan, secretary-general for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the issue is not whether Cambodia receives a bonus quota, but the size of the bonus.