A whopping 30 per cent of Cambodian exports of textile-related products in 2021 went to the US, outstripping many major buyers, despite the global battle against Covid-19, according to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on March 7.

Citing US ambassador Patrick Murphy, the ministry said this in a March 7 statement issued in connection with a working discussion on Cambodia-US bilateral relations held earlier that day.

For reference, data from the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) reveal that exports of textile-related products amounted to $11.3896 billion in 2021, a $1.505 billion or 15.2 per cent jump from 2020.

Broken down by category, garments accounted for $8.017 billion, footwear made up $1.390 billion, travel goods were to the tune of $1.490 billion, and other categories clocked in at over $0.49 billion. “Travel goods” is a designation that includes suitcases, backpacks, handbags, wallets and similar items.

At the event, Murphy hailed the increase in textile-related exports to the North American market as a testament to what he described as the strong cooperative relationship between Cambodia and the US, according to the statement.

However, the ambassador noted, there are lingering issues that will require more time and discussions to find appropriate solutions that both countries can be happy with.

Minister Ith Samheng said Cambodia-US relations have been “remarkably fruitful”, developed and shaped by partnerships tailored to address stakeholders’ concerns, and based on the “common spirit” of advocacy for labour rights, freedom of trade unions, and working conditions in accordance with labour laws and international labour standards.

He said the ministry would continue to encourage owners of factories and other businesses that manufacture bags and other travel goods to join Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) and obtain certificates of origin for their exports. The ministry also plans to launch joint inspections between local labour inspectors and the BFC, Samheng added.

GMAC chairman Kong Sang previously mentioned that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s vaccination policy, together with the support of the labour ministry, have ensured the stability of production and the growth of exports in the garment sector.