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Delegation fails in US duty-free access bid

Delegation fails in US duty-free access bid

A Cambodian delegation dispatched to Washington to obtain duty-free status for garment exports to the United States returned empty-handed Monday, said Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

“We have not reached an agreement. It is not easy to make progress with so much foreign competition,” he said.

The delegation, led by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, who declined to comment when he returned Monday, had planned to use the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Bilateral Textile Agreement between the two countries as leverage.

GMAC has long been pushing for duty-free access to the key US market, which takes around 70 percent of total garment exports. Its preferred route has been through US Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Trade Act of 2009, which extends duty-free access to 14 least developed countries, including Cambodia. Few give the bill, which is currently before the US senate’s finance committee, much hope.

It now appears to have been superseded by Congressman Jim McDermott’s New Partnership for Trade Development Act of 2009, which was brought to the floor this month and is under consideration by the house of representatives’ ways and Means Committee. The legislation calls for “least-developed” countries to be able to export to the US 50 percent of their total 2007 exports without duties.

Garment exports to the US have fallen 28.77 percent year on year to US$1.12 billion over the first nine months of the year, Ministry of Commerce figures show.

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