Image copyright Danielle Keeton-Olsen Image caption Workers fully assemble each bike and then detach the wheel for shipping from the factory Made in Cambodia is a common label on clothing from shirts and skirts to cycling shorts, but these days there’s a good chance the bicycle itself will also have been made there.The south east…

bicycle factory

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

Image caption

Workers fully assemble every bike after which detach the wheel for shipping from the manufacturing facility

Made in Cambodia is a stylish designate on clothes from shirts and skirts to biking shorts, however this show veil day there is a staunch probability the bicycle itself will also have been made there.

The south east Asian nation is taking advantage of inspiring global alternate patterns to diversify its economy, and it is now listed because the fifth-largest exporter of bicycles within the area after China, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Germany.

However considerations over democratic freedoms imply there’ll most certainly be bumps within the toll road forward.

At the Bavet Particular Economic Zone, actual on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, and staunch 50km north west of Ho Chi Minh City, the industry is gearing up to carry out the most of rising save a question to.

Internal a manufacturing facility belonging to Taiwanese-owned firm Speedtech, bicycle frames dangle from hooks treasure meat carcasses at a market.

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

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A Speedtech manufacturing facility worker examines frames sooner than they head to the chemical wash

Workers, some in preserving goggles or welding masks, are engrossed in their tasks alongside the production line, ignoring the biting scent of spray paint. The starting salary of $350 (£268) a month compares smartly with the garment industry, however the air is humid and heavy, and when the monsoon downpour arrives in early afternoon there is a whoop of enjoyment however no live in production.

When Speedtech first arrived at Bavet in 2013 it used to be finest doing closing assembly, says vice-stylish supervisor, Aliette Tong. Now the staff weld and paint frames too. The manufacturing facility can flip out up to 2,000 bicycles a day if the save a question to is there, he provides.

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

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A worker moves a crate of newly-welded bicycle frames between vats of acid wash

However the industry unexcited has shallow roots.

At Speedtech all the pieces as an alternative of the frame is imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan or China, explains Mr Tong. Even the steel ragged to carry out the frame is imported from China.

“In this era, parts makers are more are in Vietnam,” he says.

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Furthermore, the completed bicycles are exported, no longer from Cambodia’s distinguished port at Preah Sihanouk, which is a gruelling nine-hour force to the west, however by diagram of Ho Chi Minh City’s Cat Lai port, four to 5 hours east of right here, even even when that entails additional customs processes at the border.

China’s loss

What introduced about Speedtech to transfer its operations from Vietnam to Cambodia within the first situation, alongside two other Taiwanese-owned producers, A & J and Neat Tech, used to be a call by the European Union in 2005 to impose anti-dumping measures on Vietnam, making Vietnamese exports more dear.

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A the same strain is now rising on companies manufacturing in China. President Trump’s alternate battle has pushed up the associated price of their merchandise within the US. And no longer lower than three producers are yanking production out of China to starting up factories in Cambodia as an different.

Considered one of them, Shanghai Same previous Sports, has registered to attempt at a situation intention Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Already, US-based entirely entirely bicycle trace Kent Global has pledged to transfer round 60% of its biking manufacturing to the original plant by 2022.

“This can also objective procure a actually prolonged time for Cambodia to bring collectively to the efficiencies of China, if ever,” says Kent’s chief executive, Arnold Kamler, however no longer lower than for now the lower productiveness and the added transport costs in Cambodia are less of a subject than rising costs in China.

Democratic deficit

Now the supreme nervousness for Cambodia’s cycle makers is that the country would perchance face original tariffs on its beget exports.

Cambodia at the moment enjoys tariff-free bring collectively admission to to the EU under what’s called the Every thing However Arms plan (EBA) designed to present a boost to low profits international locations. However in February the EU would perchance execute that preferential bring collectively admission to, when it publishes the implications of a review into Cambodia’s political self-discipline.

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Nicolas Axelrod

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Cambodia’s exports are predominantly within the garment and textile sector

For the reason that cease of the devastating Khmer Rouge regime bigger than three decades within the past, the country has been ruled by one celebration under the same chief, Hun Sen, who’s increasingly more viewed as an authoritarian figure.

Over the final two years critics have been jailed, the distinguished opposition celebration dissolved and radio stations closed, in what the EU described as a “deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of thumb of law.”

In Washington there have also been requires a review of the US’s preferential alternate relationship with Cambodia.

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Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, has been in vitality for bigger than three decades

When the self-discipline of Cambodia’s alternate popularity comes up, the smartly mannered, chatty supervisor at Speedtech, Mr Tong goes unexcited for a 2d. Prices are probably to upward thrust if preferential popularity is lost, he admits.

Rapid length of time solution

Mr Kalman has mentioned that Kent will follow producing in Cambodia whatever occurs to its alternate popularity since costs are rising without warning in China.

However others will also objective no longer.

Robert Margevicius, the manager vice-president for US-based entirely entirely Specialized Bicycles, which makes use of Speedtech in Cambodia besides suppliers in Vietnam and Taiwan, warns the “volatile” self-discipline over alternate dangers inserting the brakes on Cambodia’s exports.

“Any complications with [the EU] or if the US activates Cambodia for political dissonance, it goes to be an unstable foundation for the bicycle industry,” he says.

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

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Cambodia’s bicycle producers weld collectively largely imported parts

Producers would perchance migrate help to Vietnam, he believes, especially as soon as the EU-Vietnam free alternate agreement comes into construct next twelve months. “Cambodia will probably be a non eternal solution till issues heat up in Vietnam,” Mr Margevicius says.

Crucially, Cambodia needs to commence making more parts domestically, for the bicycles to proceed to count as Cambodian-made. If too many parts and offers come from China the final product will cease up self-discipline to the same punishingly high tariffs as Chinese bicycles.

Moun Channheak, from Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce says the government is doing its utmost to present a boost to a sector that employs hundreds of of us and exports round $400m price of accomplished bicycles a twelve months.

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Danielle Keeton-Olsen

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Speedtech offers accomplished bicycles for western producers in conjunction with younger of us’s bikes

“We received success with bicycle exports to the EU and other international locations however we desire to make investments in parts manufacturing,” he says. “We desire investments in Cambodia as an different of importing self-discipline cloth.”

It shall be laborious to entice that investment whereas the country’s alternate popularity stays in flux, parts out Mr Margevicius.

One thing he’ll narrate for Cambodia even when is the growth that has been made to this level, within the fine of the work and the shift in the direction of larger specification designs.

“What I actually have found about Cambodian workers is that they’re craftspeople,” Mr Margevicius says. “They procure pleasure in their work.”

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