The Cambodian government, through the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, is committed to expanding the scope of the implementation of the Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) project to travel goods and bag factories to boost competitiveness in the industry.
Ministry secretary of state Heng Sour made the remark on May 6 during a meeting with the US Trade Representative (USTR) via video link.
The meeting focused on the Cambodia-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and discussed progress in the field of labour, according to the ministry.
During the meeting, Sour presented the progress of work related to the registration of professional organisations, the Arbitration Council's resolution of labour disputes, and the inspection of labour conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We have been working on collaborating with the Better Factories Cambodia project to expand the scope of application to travel products and bag factories," he said.
According to the ministry, owners of factories and manufacturing enterprises applying to export goods under preferential trade schemes must first register with the BFC project. Failure to do so cold affect their application prospects, it warned.
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) secretary-general Ken Loo told The Post in February of the government's plans to expand the BFC project's coverage to include travel goods and bag factories.
He said: “This is a clear indication of the government's commitment to ensure that exporters in these two sectors uphold high compliance of local labour laws and international labour standards.
“GMAC is a signatory to the MoU [memorandum of understanding] with BFC, as are the [labour and commerce ministries]. We strongly support this initiative.”
The BFC project was established in 2001 in a unique partnership between the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank.
According to the ILO, the BFC project involves workers and the government to improve working conditions and sharpen the garment industry's competitive edge. Today, there are 557 factories with 614,242 workers and 59 brands and retailers included in the project.
In January-March, the Kingdom exported $2.410 billion worth of garments, footwear and travel goods, down by 6.48 per cent from the $2.577 billion posted in the corresponding period of 2020, according to data from the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia.
Broken down by category, garments fell 6.43 per cent from $1.897 to $1.775 billion, footwear slumped 7.33 per cent from $341 to $316 million, and travel goods – including suitcases, backpacks, handbags and wallets – declined 5.89 per cent from $339 to $319 million.