(Refiles to adds dropped word in paragraph 7)
PHNOM PENH, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Cambodia’s garment exports grew by 10.73 percent in the first half of 2018 and are projected to remain strong despite a European Union threat to withdraw duty-free trading access, official data showed on Wednesday.
Cambodia exported $3.2 billion worth of garments in the first half of this year, compared to $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce on Wednesday.
Garment exports to the European Union grew 6.03 percent to$1.9 billion, while exports to the United States increased 16.49 percent to over $1 billion, the data showed.
The EU began a formal procedure this month to strip Cambodia of its “Everything but Arms (EBA)” initiative, following July elections that returned Prime Minister Hun Sen to power after 33 years in office and gave his party all parliamentary seats.
Critics said the vote was flawed because of the lack of a credible opposition, among other factors.
The garment industry is the largest employer in Cambodia, and garment exports account for around 40 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s economy.
The Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) said that the exports for the rest of 2018 will remain strong because garment orders had already been placed in August and September when there was no news about the EBA threat.
“The rest of the year will highly likely see a similar increase,” GMAC’s deputy secretary general Kaing Monika told Reuters. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul Editing by James Pearson)