Everything But Arms: EU Close to Suspending Cambodia’s Trade Preferences

Written by | Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Cambodia has been warned by the European Union that it may lose its EU trade benefits over its human rights and political freedoms record. The EU slammed the government for the dire human rights situation in the Southeast Asian country, giving it a one-month deadline to respond to a preliminary report on suspending trade preferences before deciding whether to go ahead with the plan. Brussels has warned Phnom Penh it would suspend the trade benefits over a crackdown on the opposition, the media and non-governmental organizations by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the country’s strongman, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 34 years.
“We are very concerned about the human rights situation there,” EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Twitter. “The Cambodians now have one month to respond and we will make our final decision in February next year.” Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the report commissioned by the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had been received but said there was no comment for now. What could be a sign that the EU’s growing pressure on Cambodia is bringing fruits, the government relaxed house arrest conditions at the weekend on an opposition leader Kem Sokha, but did not withdraw treason charges against him.
Cambodia has enjoyed preferential trade terms under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme that gives 47 of the world’s poorest countries duty-free, quota-free access to the EU single market for all products except arms and ammunition. The EU accounts for more than one-third of Cambodia’s exports. Brussels was spurred into action after the arrest of Kem Sokha and the banning of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party just before elections last year that was won by landslide by Hun Sen’s Cambodia’s People’s Party but was dismissed by western countries as a farce. In the meantime, the EU has also lately focused on nearby Myanmar to raise concerns about human and labor rights there but has stopped short of starting the process to withdraw EBA preferences.

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.