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Coalition Seeks Special Tariffs For Cambodia

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

A coalition of five major associations representing retailers and other importers of clothing and textiles has made a strong appeal for Congress to approve duty-free access to the US market for apparel exports from Cambodia.

The coalition said Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in the world that experienced as many as two million deaths under the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge, but now has succeeded in establishing a "functioning democracy and instituting important economic reforms." The importers said Cambodia's economic growth has been the result of its apparel industry, which accounts for 80 percent of its export earnings.

Citing progress Cambodia has made in improving its labor conditions and worker rights, the coalition, in a letter to the leaders of the congressional trade committees said, "Under these circumstances, it is clear that Cambodia deserves to be included among the least-developed countries that receive duty-free and quota-free treatment for their apparel exports to the United States."

US textile manufacturers are opposed to granting the special trade concessions to Cambodia, claiming that Cambodia under existing tariffs, has built a "large and competitive" apparel sector at the expense of the United States and some of its bilateral and regional free trade agreements. When asked about the Cambodia trade issue during a press conference at last week's trade ministers meeting in Geneva, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that while the United States has a strong commitment to aid the less developed countries, he believes the Cambodia issue should be dealt with in the context of the overall Doha Round.

Signing the letter to the congressional committee leaders were the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the National Retail Federation, the Outdoor Industry Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel.

December 8, 2009