US State Dept: Cambodia Ready for Quotas’ End Expiry

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.


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