Blog: Beth WrightCambodia facing trade benefits suspension

Beth Wright | 18 February 2019

The European Union has officially started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia's preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. The move follows a warning to Cambodia in October that without clear and demonstrable improvements to its human rights situation there would be a suspension of trade preferences. Not surprisingly, the news has disappointed the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which says such a move would jeopardise the country's efforts to build a responsible apparel supply chain.

Meanwhile, despite China officially ending its "re-education through labour" programme in 2013, disturbing media reports persist of forced clothing and textile labour in Xinjiang's internment camps. The concerns have started to lose business for Chinese companies, with US sportswear-maker Badger Sport last month cutting ties with Chinese supplier Heitain Taida Apparel Co Ltd.

The ongoing human rights crisis in neighbouring Myanmar has prompted the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) to launch a four-point guide aimed at helping brands and retailers to continue to source responsibly from the country.

And in nearby Bangladesh, concerns remain about the future of the Accord for Fire and Building Safety. The organisation is calling on the country's government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to negotiate with its Steering Committee on a "responsible and sustainable" transition plan as a decision on the Accord's future looms.

The statement follows a move by a group of 190 investors representing more than US$3trn in assets urging the Bangladesh government not to abandon the Accord until it is fully capable of continuing its work.

While the country's Brac University has launched a new digital map that charts Dhaka's garment factories and aims to help buyers know more about the suppliers they are involved with. The move will strengthen and facilitate the growth of Bangladesh's readymade garment industry, experts say.

Overseas, the Cotton Egypt Association has partnered with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to boost sustainability efforts and improve conditions for supply chain workers of the Egyptian Cotton brand. The new Egyptian Cotton Project will also see the partners cooperate on a pilot launch of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) for the first time in Egypt.

In the US, the United Nations is calling for a fast resolution of the tit-for-tat trade dispute between the US and China, warning it could have "massive" implications on the global economy.

Indeed, the ongoing trade tensions have contributed to a decline in the US trade share of world cotton, a new forecast from the National Cotton Council (NCC) shows.

The conflict has also been blamed for lower-than-expected holiday season sales in the US as worries over the trade war and turmoil in the stock markets impacted consumer behaviour over the key Christmas trading period.

While in other news, Debenhams is to develop a new strategic sourcing partnership with global sourcing giant Li & Fung; denim giant Levi Strauss & Co intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange; JC Penney is looking to focus more on higher margin products such as apparel; and Amazon has ditched its plan to build a new headquarters in New York City.

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