GMAC dissatisfied with EU following partial EBA suspension

18 Feb '20
3 min read
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock

Expressing disappointment over the February 12 decision by the European Commission to partially suspend the ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) trade benefit for Cambodia, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has urged the Commission and European Parliament members to reconsider it by taking into account the original values and goals of the programme.

When the programme was started nearly 20 years ago, its goals were development assistance, poverty reduction and dignity of employment. The EBA programme has been a clear success in Cambodia in meeting these objectives. The partial withdrawal announced on February 12th will lead to nothing more than job losses and affect the workers livelihoods, especially women, the association said in a press release.

The EBA allows EU countries to import products from Cambodia (except for arms) free of tariffs and quotas. The major beneficiaries of the program have been the country's garment and travel goods sectors represented by GMAC.

These industries account for some 75 per cent of Cambodia's total merchandise exports and some 90 per cent of exports to the European Union (EU), which is the largest market for the goods that are produced by the manufacturers that GMAC represents.

Employment in these sectors supported by EBA trade preferences now exceeds 750,000 and has contributed to lifting millions of Cambodians out of poverty. Most of the workers are women who manage households, care for the health and wellbeing of children and provide direct income support to more than 20 per cent of families in the country.

As part of its reciprocal commitment to the EBA program, GMAC has established a culture of transparency and accountability in labour compliance and working conditions.

In what became known as the ‘Cambodia model’, the GMAC was the first association in the world to welcome the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to establish a monitoring program to inspect our factories for compliance with national and international labour requirements.

No sector in any other country that benefits from preferential access to the EU market has a better record of cooperation with the ILO, GMAC claimed.

GMAC has also supported the effective operation of Cambodia's Arbitration Council as well as other innovations in industrial relations which have supported the development of a strong trade union movement in our sectors.

GMAC respects and supports the EU's engagement to improve its human rights policies. “Unfortunately, summarily pulling the rug from under the feet of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians is not the way to proceed,” GMAC said.

The EU's decision is bound to cause confusion with respect to Cambodia’s trade status. It will incentivise buyers to source from countries with far weaker legacies of trade union rights. It is likely to cause the loss of employment for tens of thousands of GMAC workers, most of whom are trade union members. It will increase poverty in the country and make it more difficult to improve wages and benefits for other workers, GMAC added.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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