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PHNOM PENH – The European Union’s withdrawal of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) access would harm 750,000 workers and three million families, claims the country’s leading apparel trade body. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) this week expressed concerns about the implications of Cambodia losing tariff-free exports to the EU, which could potentially greatly impact its apparel and textile exports – a major cash-cow for the country. The EU has been monitoring Cambodia for six months to determine whether the its exports should continue to enjoy tariff free exports to the EU. The monitoring period was prompted partially by alleged labour rights violations, as well a wider crackdown by Prime Minister Hun Sen on the political opposition, NGOs, and the independent media. The European Commission will present Cambodia with a report on its findings from the monitoring period in November, and make a final decision in February 2020 on whether EBA status will be withdrawn fully or in part. Suspension would come into effect by August 2020.

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The GMAC statement said: “GMAC again wishes to appeal to the EU legislators and officials and all interested stakeholders in the EU that a suspension of EBA benefits for our sector will result in large job losses across the garment, footwear and travel goods labour force and would not serve the EBA programme objective of poverty eradication and sustainable development.

“It would also be a sad and regrettable outcome for GMAC and its workforce, which has done so much to advance the role of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in monitoring labour compliance, not only in Cambodia but in our sector in other countries in the world.”

GMAC represents 580 garment, footwear and travel goods production facilities in the Kingdom. It claimed that concessions offered through EBA helped lifted millions of Cambodians out of poverty and significantly contributed to the country’s economic and social development.

Exports from Cambodia to the EU totalled €5.3bn (US$5.8bn) last year, with more than 95 per cent included under the EBA. Of this, €4bn was in clothing and textiles.

GMAC also highlighted that it was the first association to welcome the UN’s ILO to inspect its factories for compliance with national and international labour requirements.

“GMAC has submitted supportive evidence to respond positively to the EU’s concerns and to demonstrate the progress and compliance record of our sector with laws and ILO standards, and to determine that EBA benefits should continue to be granted to our exports,” the statement said.

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