After the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1993, the first foreign investors to venture into this country are the garment manufacturers. There was no looking back since then. With the granting of MFN/GSP trade privileges to Cambodia in 1996 by both the USA and EU, the garment industry has maintained its pre-eminent position in the industrial landscape of Cambodia. Even the imposition of garment quotas by the USA in 1999 did not hamper this meteoric rise. In retrospect, the quota issue spurred on more investments into the sector as the quotas imposed upon Cambodia by the USA were, on a per capita basis, the most generous among all countries subjected to this unilateral quantitative restraint regime due to Cambodia's commitment to uphold fundamental labor standards
A special condition imposed by the US on Cambodia in return for obtaining generous garment quotas on a yearly basis was the bench marking of the improvements attained by the Cambodian garment sector in complying with cardinal ILO conventions. Mostly funded by the US Department of Labor, this unique experiment was overseen by a Chief Technical Advisor seconded from the International Labor Organization (ILO). As a contributor, GMAC has 3 representatives sitting on its 9-member Project Advisory Committee. This ILO project has since the beginning of 2006 evolved into the Better Factories Cambodia monitoring program.
In mid 1996, most of the garment investors, coming from such a diverse background as China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia & Singapore, decided to form an ad hoc unit to represent them as a group instead of being singled out individually when dealing with officials from the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), which has been charged by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to oversee the export of garments and the issuance of Certificates of Origin. In that same year, the RGC (MoC) working together with GMAC, were instrumental in the successful lobbying effort to persuade the US to grant Cambodia its Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, in order that normal tariff applies to Cambodian garments imported into the USA. Thus began a journey of symbiotic cooperation between the garment manufacturers and the RGC that has stood the test of time until today.
In 1999 GMAC was officially registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Labor, Veteran & Youth Affairs as a employers' organization in compliance with the Cambodian Labor Law 1997. Later on, it was incorporated as an association with the Ministry of Commerce.
GMAC performs many roles. At the outset, it was a pressure group, making representations to MOC on issues that affect the general interests of its members. Later on, when external developments posed a threat to the well-being and survival of the Cambodian garment industry, GMAC was at the forefront lobbying the RGC to improve it trade facilitation efficiency and reducing fees and levies to keep the industry competitive in the world market.
As the garment industry expanded and dominated the export sector, GMAC's influence and responsibility grew in tandem. When the Government-Private Sector Forum Dialog was first initiated in 2000, GMAC was tasked by RGC to head the Export Processing and Trade Facilitation Working Group. It was not restricted to this working group alone. GMAC representative is a regular participant to the Law Tax & Good Governance Working Group. In recognition of its contribution to the Cambodian economy, the World Bank invited GMAC, in 2002, to attend the sessions pertaining to the revision of the Law on Investment promulgated in 2003. All major UN organizations, (especially the international financial institutions like ADB, IFC, IMF and MPDF) met regularly with GMAC to inform as well as solicit comments or feedbacks from its members concerning policies implementation by the IFIs. Overseas research institutions visiting Cambodia have made GMAC one of the "must-meet" organizations in their itinerary.
On the national level, the Ministry of Labor & Vocational Training invited representatives from the association to sit on the Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), the highest tripartite (RGC, employer & union) policy making body entrusted under the Cambodian Labor Law to recommend labor policies to the RGC. In fact, the Chairman of GMAC is designated a permanent Vice-Chairman post in the LAC
Many foreign donor agencies provided technical assistance (such as UNDP and ITC) or financial grants to GMAC for it to undertake socially enabling projects as most garment workers are ladies and GMAC is the only entity most suited to channel and disseminate, directly and efficiently, such assistance to this target group of recipients.
- In August 1999, the Japanese through Japan Overseas Development Corporation (JODC) funded the establishment of the Cambodian Garment Training Center (CGTC). Although the Japanese assistance was discontinued in 2004, CGTC continues to provide training to the industry. JODC has renewed their commitment to bring in new trainers and consultants to lend support to CGTC in 2007.
- In June 2003, the Asia Development Bank, drawing from its Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund awarded a Technical Assistance (TA) 4131 to Cambodia which aimed at "Preventing Poverty and Empowering Female Garment Workers Affected by the Changing International Trade Environment". The Executing Agency for the TA will be MOC. An inter-ministerial committee was set up spearheaded by the MOC, MoEF, Social Affairs, Labor, Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs, MIME and other relevant ministries and institutions. The Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia will be tasked to provide overall guidance on policy issues and to support the TA.
- The French development agency, AFD (Agence Française de Développement) is funding various projects namely the training programs for garment workers, fashion observatory resource library, industry surveys and social adjustment. These projects are jointly managed by MoC and GMAC, and implemented by Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre, Singapore. The project started Aug 06 and will end Mar 08.
- Since June 2005, USAID established the Garment Improvement Productivity Center (GIPC) to improve productivity and competitiveness in the garment sector. Principal Implementers are Nathan Associates, Inc. and Werner International in collaboration with GMAC. It is USAID’s objective to ensure that GIPC can be self-funding by end of the project i.e. end 2008.
As the Cambodian garment industry matures, GMAC's role will continuously evolve to keep in synch with the prevailing situation. However as long as the garment industry maintains its predominance as the biggest employer group in the country, GMAC will always be in a pivotal position to contribute positively and significantly to the development of the Cambodian economy.
GMAC Vision/Mission Statement
- To make Cambodia a Preferred Partner in the competitive Global Apparel Market.
- To collaborate with all stakeholders to pursue a conducive business environment for the growth and development of the apparel industry.
- To provide prompt and crucial information pertaining to industry.
- To support Cambodian Government and Industry in the development of human capital.
- To embrace Corporate Social Responsibility in management principles so as to develop mutually beneficial relationships and sustainable business development.