The European Union (EU) is mulling over imposing tariffs on Cambodian garments. As Cambodia has failed to respect the democratic and humanitarian principles of the UN charter, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on workers’ rights, European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom sent a warning to Cambodia last month. Cambodia is supposed to respect them under the preferential tariff regime.

Clothing is the country’s main export, bringing in some $5 bn a year, with Europe being its largest market. Pressure is also there on the government from foreign clothing brands to ease up. A delegation from such firms like Nike and Adidas visited Cambodia recently to press for better treatment of labour leaders and other activists, according to European media reports.