THE Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) announced on Wednesday it has failed to boost local industry by tapping the Japanese clothing market.
Cheath Khemara, GMAC's labour issue officer, told the Post Wednesday that the Kingdom had lost out because producers were unable to compete with neighbouring countries on quality, transportation and pricing.
"We really regret we failed to grab such a big market, but we will keep trying in the hope that we can enter Japan in future," he said.
He said exporting to Japan would add at least US$100 million annually in garment revenues.
The president of GMAC, Van Sou Ieng, led a delegation to Japan in November in a bid to persuade buyers to consider Cambodian garments.
The delegation included manufacturers, government officials and union representatives, and concluded with Japan agreeing to a trial purchase of 10,000 suits and 100,000 pairs of shoes. That deal has not happened.
One of the delegates on that trip, Chea Vuthy from the Council for the Development of Cambodia, told the Post he was not aware of the reasons for failure.
He added that responsibility lay with the Ministry of Commerce.
However, Mean Sophea, who is director of the department of trade preferences at the ministry, was unable to comment on Wednesday as he was in a meeting.
Ath Thun, the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions, an umbrella organisation that has more than 50 garment unions as members, said the failure was a great loss.
Japan is a large market, he said, and its consumers can afford to pay higher prices than people in other markets.
"To my mind loss of confidence by workers in their job security and their low salaries are the main factors which contributed to low quality," Ath Thun said. "But I don't think these are the main reasons for the failure to enter Japan."
Ath Thun said that, more importantly, the government needs to make the bureaucratic process more transparent and improve infrastructure used by the industry.
"Then I am sure we can make a new deal which will allow us to export garment products to Japan," he said.
Cambodia has long wanted to export garments to Japan, the world's third-largest market for such exports after the US and the European Union.
The industry earns revenues of $3 billion annually.