EU starts process to suspend preferential trade access to Cambodia

BRUSSELS, The European Union (EU) Monday started the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market, known as Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, for violation of human rights and labour rights.

EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said in a press statement that over the last eighteen months, “there has been a deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia.” She noted that in recent months, the Cambodian authorities have taken a number of positive steps, including the release of political figures, civil society activists and journalists and addressing some of the restrictions on civil society and trade union activities.

“However, without more conclusive action from the government, the situation on the ground calls Cambodia’s participation in the EBA scheme into question,” she added.

On her part, EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said that “It should be clear that today’s move is neither a final decision nor the end of the process. But the clock is now officially ticking and we need to see real action soon.” The EU will now launch intensive monitoring and engagement with the Cambodian authorities that will take 12 months and after that the EU executive body in a statement said it will conclude with a final decision on whether or not to withdraw tariff preferences.

The Everything But Arms arrangement is one arm of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU.

Exports of textiles and footwear, prepared foodstuffs and vegetable products, rice, and bicycles represented 97 percent of Cambodia’s overall exports to the EU in 2018.

Out of the total Cambodian exports of 4.9 billion euro (USD 5.4 billion) to the EU, 99 percent were eligible for duty-free under the EU?’s preferential scheme.

Source: Kuwait News Agency