A group of international garment businesses, including Nike, Adidas, and Levi Strauss, recently expressed concern over the labour and human rights situation in Cambodia. In a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the group urged him to listen to the concerns of the European Union (EU) regarding labour and human rights violations in the country. The situation is posing a risk to trade preferences for Cambodia and many of the signatories have previously raised these concerns through multiple channels with the Cambodian Government. The success of the country’s garment sector has gone hand-in-hand with its adoption and adherence to high labour standards, such as those set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In February, the European Commission launched the process that could lead to the suspension of the country’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything-But-Arms (EBA) trade scheme. The EU is concerned about democratic setbacks in the country, including the dissolution of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), in 2017.
In January, US senators Ted Cruz and Chris Coons introduced the Cambodian Trade Act of 2019, which would require the US Government to review the preferential trade treatment Cambodia receives under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) scheme. Cambodia has around 1,200 garment and footwear factories, employing nearly 800,000 people, four-fifths of whom are women.