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Business trends

Southeast Asia manufacturers sweat as U.S. mulls tougher tariff rules

Amendment could add human and environmental rights to eligibility criteria

Lobbyists say the U.S. should expand its GSP trade preference program to include garments if it also adds more stringent criteria for qualifying countries.   © Reuters

PHNOM PENH -- Proposed reforms to America's largest and longest-running trade preference program threaten to freeze out some of the Southeast Asian countries that rely on it for duty-free access to the U.S. market.

The General System of Preferences (GSP) was established in the 1970s to help developing countries by reducing tariffs on up to 5,000 products, ranging from bags and jewelry to mattresses and car parts. It plays an important role in regional manufacturing -- its top five beneficiaries include Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and the Philippines.

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