Bumps In The Road To Cambodian Labor Reform

A U.S. trade deal becomes a test case in global standards

Last year, impoverished Cambodia made an unprecedented deal: In exchange for the U.S. agreeing to increase the textiles it imports from there, it would let foreign monitors inspect its garment factories and certify it was improving its labor standards. Never before had the U.S. agreed to swap favorable trading terms for good labor practices, and it marked a significant victory for U.S. trade unions--specifically the American Union of Needle Trades Industrial & Textile Employees (UNITE), which had strongly lobbied Washington's trade representative for the link. While the deal was an unusual breach of national sovereignty, Cambodia is a war-ravaged nation in desperate need of export earnings and investment. It could hardly say no.

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