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Officials optimistic as EBA visit ends

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Garment workers at Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone. Post staff

Officials optimistic as EBA visit ends

Garment industry associations and Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training officials have expressed their expectations of a positive outcome after an EU fact-finding delegation concluded its eight-day mission in Cambodia this week.

Officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service completed a June 3-10 “fact-finding” mission as part of the EU’s monitoring and evaluation process to determine whether it will withdraw the Kingdom’s access to its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement.

The process is set to end in mid-August.

Following this, the EU has said it will produce a report of its findings and conclusions, with Cambodia having one month to reply.

On February 12, the EU officially launched the procedure that could lead to a partial or full withdrawal of EBA access due to what they said were “concerns over Cambodia’s record against core human rights and labour rights conventions”.

It said the monitoring team met with government officials, international organisations, trade unions, business organisations and civil society, as well as the embassies of EU and non-EU member states.

“The EU’s aim is to address human rights and labour rights concerns. The EU is committed to working with the Cambodian authorities to achieve this."

“Cambodia must show real, credible improvement on the issues of concern in order to avoid the withdrawal of EBA preferences,” the European Commission said.

Kaing Monika, the deputy secretary-general of The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), expressed confidence regarding the EBA process.

“I have always felt positive over the outcome for my industry because we in the industry are very sure of our performance in terms of respect for labour rights in compliance with our own local laws and the core

international labour standards and conventions that have been ratified,” Monika said.

He said GMAC was grateful to see a positive note from the EU.

“The mission noted steps reported by Cambodia towards improving compliance with international standards on freedom of association and collective bargaining,” the note said.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training Heng Sour said on Thursday that the EU fact-finding team was notified of a list of registered trade unions and the smooth trade union registration procedure at a meeting last Friday.

It was also apprised of improvements made to the role played by unions and union federations in assisting local unions by addressing their complaints and requests and providing them legal aid.

“Labour rights and working conditions have been ensured and respected according to international standards since the beginning,” Sour said.

The EU has said Cambodia was the second largest beneficiary of EBA last year, with its goods accounting for more than 18 per cent of all imports into the single market under the agreement.

Exports from Cambodia to the EU totalled €5.3 billion last year, with more than 95 per cent included in EBA, of which €4 billion ($4.51 billion) was in clothing and textiles.

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