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Trade Officials Fight Allegations of Label Swaps

Commerce officials are working in the US to counter accusations that garments claiming to be made in Cambodia are actually produced in neighboring Vietnam.

Members of the opposition “told America that our shirts were not made in Cambodia, but were made in Vietnam,” Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told VOA Khmer in an interview on a recent visit to Washington. “Is it fair to say that?”

Cham Prasidh and other officials were in Washington to seek more markets for Cambodian products and to lobby for continued preferential trade agreements.

The garment industry provides more than 300,000 jobs and is economic earner for Cambodia, sending most of its items to the US market.

Sandra Polaski, deputy undersecretary of the US Department of Labor said allegations of label-swapping had reached her, but she dismissed them.

“There is actually a fairly strict system to monitor, to be sure that the products that were labeled, ‘Made in Cambodia,’ came from Cambodia. So I don’t think it is an extensive problem.”

Similarly, Cham Prasidh said that the Cambodian ministry of commerce has effective examine systems to every garment factories that can’t be cheated. He urges those critics better to think more about the country benefits.

“We have control systems at every garment factory,” Cham Prasidh said. “No one can trick us. The one who talk about the Vietnamese clothes, they even provoke problem at the Vietnamese border.”

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said the allegations should be investigated.

And Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Unions of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the government still needs to establish an inspection group to monitor factories.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said there was no benefit to label swaps, as the costs of smuggling goods or paying bribes to conduct the scheme would outweigh the benefits.