Cambodia's garment industry has been granted an 18 percent increase in its export
quota to the United States for 2003.
The country's largest employer and biggest source of foreign exchange received an
automatic 6 percent quota increase, as well as a 12 percent bonus for compliance
with good quality work practices.
Under the unique trade deal with the US, quota increases are granted for complying
with labor standards. A maximum increase of 24 percent was available under the agreement.
"We welcome this increase," said Ray Chew of the Garment Manufacturers'
Association of Cambodia. "It is an indirect acknowledgment that working conditions
in Cambodia's garment factories are improving."
George McLeod, the international liaison officer with the country's largest garment
workers union, the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed
the increase. He also called on the government to enforce its threat against factories
that did not comply with the labor law.
That followed Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh's recent letter to 28 factories that
had breached labor conditions, demanding they explain charges of anti-union discrimination
or face exclusion from the quota.
"The increase is positive for the industry," said McLeod. "Now unions
and the government should pursue the problem factories on a case-by-case basis. In
the past the government has made statements like this during the quota negotiations
but not followed them up."
Garment exports are the country's largest export. Figures compiled by the Cambodia
Development Research Institute show that first quarter garment exports to the US
were worth $159 million. Exports to the rest of the world were worth $74 million.