The leading garment industry association in Cambodia has called on the international community not to remove Cambodia from preferential trading arrangements despite the deteriorating political situation.
The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) said in a statement on Friday that economic sanctions against Cambodia would negatively impact some 700,000 garment workers in the country.
The statement from GMAC came after the European Union said it was considering removing Cambodia from its Everything But Arms scheme, which provides tariff-free access to E.U. member states to some of the world’s least developed nations.
Cambodia has drawn widespread criticism in recent months for a crackdown on opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen that has seen the opposition banned, independent media targeted and civil society groups closed down.
“We would like to maintain smooth operation of our 600 members factories that economically support more than 700,000 workers and about 2 million more people as their family members. All the employers and employees, as well as trade unions have been working normally and peacefully to support themselves and the Cambodia economy. The development of our industries so far have lifted millions of people out of poverty. More development is needed to help the rest who are still poor,” the statement reads.
Ken Loo, GMAC’s secretary general, said factory owners were concerned by the E.U. Statement. Orders are “not decreasing at all,” he said, “but there are buyers who asked about what we think about it. But the purchase orders are still the same.”
Last week, five prominent unions also urged the E.U. not to exclude Cambodia from the preferential trading scheme.
Sok Eysan, ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said he did not think the United States and European Union would take serious economic action against Cambodia. He added that they should “not take one opposition party as a reason to hold Cambodian citizens hostage in exchange for two people,” referring to the leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Kem Sokha, CNRP president, is facing treason charges for his alleged role in a supposed plot to overthrow Hun Sen in a “color revolution” backed by the United States. The party’s former leader, Sam Rainsy, has lived in France since 2015 and faces similar charges.
Cambodia exported about $4.5 billion worth of products to the E.U and about $2.8 billion to the United States in 2016, according to official trade figures.