Two weeks before the expiration of the US bilateral garment quota agreement, the US State Department’s director of international labor affairs said that Cambodia’s attention to labor conditions has left it well equipped to compete in the post-quota world.
“Cambodia has become a model for the rest of the world,” in its improvement of labor standards, Robert Hagen said at a briefing Friday. “Many buyers in the US and Europe are looking around the world for socially-conscious producers of apparel,” in order to protect their reputations, and will likely look toward Cambodia, he added.
Mark Storella, US Embassy deputy chief of mission, predicted a bright outlook for Cambodia’s garment trade for at least a year. “I think we can say, with some confidence, based on anecdotal evidence, that buyers around the world have deemed Cambodia to be one of the survivors,” he said.
The upbeat forecasts follows a World Bank announcement earlier this month that 15 international firms, who buy nearly half of all garments produced in Cambodia, plan to maintain or increase their orders after quotas expire on Jan 1.
But industry experts have identified corruption, red tape and the costs of utilities as obstacles to Cambodia’s future in the garment trade, and Hagen said that Cambodia needs to make further efforts to maintain its competitive edge.
The International Labor Organization, which monitors the standards of Cambodia’s garment factories, is making plans to extend its operations here until 2009, he said.
The US embassy also urged the government to make greater efforts to show that violence against labor leaders will not be tolerated.
Storella criticized the government for its failure to bring to justice the killers of union leaders Chea Vichea and Ros Savannareth, who were gunned down Jan 22 and May 7 respectively.
The embassy is not satisfied with the government’s probe into the killings, Storella said, nor convinced that those arrested for Chea Vichea’s killing are guilty. “Obviously we are still very concerned about those two killings,” he said.