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EU to partially withdraw Cambodia's EBA status

Feb '20
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
The European Union (EU) yesterday announced the partial removal of Cambodia’s ‘Everything-but-Arms’ (EBA) trade status, saying the latter has not done enough to mitigate serious and systematic violations of human rights principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The EU is Cambodia's largest trading partner, accounting for 45 per cent of the latter’s exports in 2018.

“The withdrawal of tariff preferences—and their replacement with the EU’s standard tariffs—will affect selected garment and footwear products and all travel goods and sugar,” the European Commission (EC) said in a statement.

The withdrawal amounts to about one-fifth, or about $1.1 billion, of Cambodia’s yearly exports to the EU, it said. “Unless the European Parliament and the Council object, this will take effect in August 12, 2020.”

The Commission started reviewing Cambodia’s EBA status in February last year after the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) swept all 125 National Assembly seats during the 2018 general election. The review followed the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017 by the Supreme Court and the arrest of its leader Kem Sokha over a treason charge. The Supreme Court also banned 118 former senior CNRP officials from politics for five years.

The EBA benefit allows Cambodian products to enter the EU market 99 per cent tariff-free. The loss of the EBA may cost Cambodia millions, along with putting 800,000 jobs in the garment and textile sector at risk.

EC vice president Josep Borrell said in the statement issued last night that the Commission’s decision to partially revoke the EBA shows its commitment to Cambodians, their rights and the Kingdom’s sustainable development.

“The duration, scale and impact of Cambodia’s violations of the rights to political participation and the freedoms of expression and association left the European Union with no other choice than to partially withdraw trade preferences,” he said. “The European Union will not stand and watch as democracy is eroded, human rights curtailed and free debate silenced.”

Phil Hogan, EC commissioner for trade, in the statement, said the EU is committed to supporting the Kingdom’s economic and social development through trade preferences, but “the respect for human rights is non-negotiable for us”.

The EC statement reiterated that the Cambodian government needs to re-open political space, create the necessary conditions for the re-establishment of a credible opposition party and initiate a democratic process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue.

“This includes the reinstatement of the political rights of the opposition members and the repeal/revision of laws, such as the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations,” it said.

The Cambodian foreign affairs ministry issued a statement last night, terming the EU decision unjust and politically motivated.

“Despite grounding on the EU’s values and principles of human rights and democracy, the decision is politically driven and is devoid of objectivity and impartiality, two fundamental principles which are to be expected from the EC as a supra-national body. The decision is nothing less than the application of a double standard when it comes to the EU’s preferential practices with other trading nations,” the ministry said.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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