Today, greater obstacles make it more difficult to empower women in developing countries such as Cambodia because of pressures stemming from globalization and market competitiveness. For example, the elimination of current quotas for World Trade Organization members (WTO) makes market access for the garment industry increasingly competitive. This means that, although the reputation for good labour standards undoubtedly helps Cambodia’s garment industry to attract high-end companies willing to pay a premium for factories that are labour-law compliant, at the end of the day, buyers and businesses are interested in the bottom line – lower prices and higher profit margins. As such, Cambodia not only has to prove to buyers and consumers that workers in the country are respected and work under good working conditions, it must also show that the premium paid for the assurance that the clothing were not made in sweatshops is well worth the higher price. If Cambodia fails to convince buyers, it could mean that companies will leave the country, thus threatening the estimated US$1.58 billion in exports and an estimated 240,000 jobs, most of which are held by women (Kate, D.T. (2004). “Factory Owners Know They Can’t Survive on Quotas Alone,” The Cambodia Daily, June 23).
Even in this current market situation and prevailing pressures, however, AFESIP Fair Fashion not only remains committed to empowering women but also views Fair Trade as a viable and sustainable alternative model in the real world. Fair Trade practices “humanize” the trade process by making the producer-consumer chain as short as possible so that workers are not exploited and consumers are aware of the culture, identity, and conditions in which producers live and work.