The European Union has lifted Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) rights partly in protest against human rights violations. Since November 2018, the EU has been threatening to suspend the EBA trade scheme with Cambodia.
According to the decision, Cambodia can export goods such as clothing and footwear as well as travel goods and sugar to the EU but will now face tariffs under World Trade Organization rules when imported into the EU.
This decision will affect at least 20 percent worth of 1 billion euros of Cambodia’s annual export, however, other Cambodia’s products will remain out of this decision and will enjoy the duty-free export to the EU market.
Deteriorating democracy and human rights violations in the form of snatching away of citizens’ freedom of expression as well as land and labor disputes have prompted the EU to take this move, but, they are open to taking part in the necessary reforms with the Southeast Asian country, according to EU.
Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Trade said, “We are on their side even in the midst of epidemic problems. Nonetheless, our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labor rights,” adding further, “I am ready to continue our engagement and restore completely free access to the EU market for products from Cambodia, but we will see significant improvement in that area.”
The European Union argued that the decision came after a long call for Cambodian authorities to restore political independence and restore the conditions necessary for credible, democratic opposition.
However, a government spokesman in Cambodia accused the EU of “double standards” that it had just signed a trade agreement to cut tariffs on neighboring Vietnam, claiming an authoritarian communist state with a poor human rights record.
The EU is the largest trading partner of Cambodia accounting for 45 percent of total export in 2018, among which 95 percent of these exports enjoyed the EBA tariff scheme.