Everything But Arms: EU Set to Suspend Some Trade Benefits for Cambodia

Written by | Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Cambodia’s government is bracing for the European Union to partially and temporarily remove the country’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade privileges on Wednesday (12 February) to prompt the Southeast Asian country to improve the human rights situation. Brussels warned Cambodia in February 2019, it would withdraw the scheme in the wake of a 2018 political crackdown. The European Parliament and Council, both of whom have indicated they want the European Commission to take a tougher approach to Cambodia’s human rights violations, could still object to any decision, but if approved, the new measure will come into effect on 12 August.
If the EU suspends Cambodia’s EBA arrangements, it would mark the first time it has used this punitive measure. The EBA entitles 47 countries recognized as least developed by the United Nations to export goods other than weapons to the EU, tariff-free. The EU has previously withdrawn other preferential trade schemes for Belarus, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, Sri Lanka. This partial suspension is expected to effect subsectors of the economy, including parts of the garment industry. In total, about 25% of total Cambodian exports to the EU would be targeted. Cambodia’s EU exports totaling five billion Euros (in 2017) include mainly textiles, but other significant sectors are also rice and bicycles.
But this partial suspension could be temporary or even prevented altogether because the EU could repeal its decision even before the tariffs took effect, should the Cambodian government make “further progress on civic and political rights”, as Karin Ulmer, senior officer at Europe-based ACT Alliance EU, points out. However, for the time being, Commission alleged that “to date, the Commission has no found evidence that Cambodia has adopted the necessary measures to remedy these violations” concerning political rights in the country. The government in Phnom Penh has rejected criticism, saying it had acted in accordance with Cambodian law.

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