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Apparel Companies Voice Concern Over Cambodian Labor Practices


PHNOM PENH—Apparel brands with international supply chains express concern over potential sanctions in Cambodia tied to labor and human rights practices. A recent report by Reuters says brands such as Adidas, Puma, and Levi Strauss have chimed in on the topic.

In a letter to Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, companies urge Sen to make adjustments related to the garment industry, such as amending a trade union law, drop criminal charges against union leaders, and the repeal of a law on non-governmental organizations (NGOs). According to the Library of Congress, the 2015 law stipulates stringent registration and reporting requirements for NGOs, and the government can disband NGOs it deems undermining to the country. Critics argue that the rule is undemocratic and gives the government more latitude to pressure and restrict groups.

The letter to Sen’s administration also says the “credibility” of the country’s apparel and footwear sectors are at stake, and that neglecting to make adjustments could result in a loss of trade preferences. The brands in the letter have contributed more than $9 billion in garment, footwear, and travel goods exports in the past year, and Reuters says some of those companies have been active in Cambodia since its garment sector was established in the 1990s.

The concern over trade sanctions and restrictions stems from an upcoming decision by the European Union of whether or not to strip Cambodia of an existing "Everything but Arms" (EBA) agreement. Next month, the EU will decide on the fate of the country's EBA initiative, which allows Cambodia to export goods like apparel duty and tariff-free to the EU.  

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