Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government sends delegation to EU over preferential trade scheme

Government sends delegation to EU over preferential trade scheme

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Workers stitch clothes at a garment factory in Sihanoukville’s Special Economic Zone. Sahiba Chawdhary

Government sends delegation to EU over preferential trade scheme

Officials from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) have embarked on a two-week mission to the European Union (EU) seeking to have the Kingdom’s tax-free trading preferences with the economic bloc extended, according to a press release on Thursday.

Led by lawyer and government adviser Sok Siphana, the delegation will be in Europe until July 1 trying to secure the future of Cambodia’s inclusion in the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

This comes after the European Commission (EC) on April 30 submitted a report with a “list of issues” to the Cambodian government that was based mainly on data from UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith’s visit to the Kingdom.

The MFA’s release stated: “Driven by the spirit of transparency and accountability, this government mission aims to bring the necessary updates on the latest development in the situation of Cambodia in areas pertinent to the scope of this enhanced engagement exercise.”

Noting that the EC’s reported concerns were based solely on Smith’s visit, MFA’s release said it ignored a report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) that mentioned positive improvements to working conditions in the country.

The “list of issues” cites a backslide in Cambodian civil society that includes the law on NGOs, the law on political parties and the alleged repression of media outlets.

“Sadly and quite unfairly, in a very large number of cases, the government felt like a victim of unfounded accusations and excessive generalisations,” the press release said.

In a leaked letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen late last year, Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak expressed concern about the cost of customs bills should the country lose its preferential treatment in the EU.

Sorasak then suggested that the premier send delegates to lobby the EU to avoid removing the tax-free measures, saying Cambodia could have to pay $676 million in tariffs.

The sum was estimated based on the $6.2 billion in revenue from exports to the EU in 2016.

Neither Sok Siphana, who is leading the delegation, nor the spokesperson for the MFA could be reached for comment on Thursday.

Mey Kalyan, a senior advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC), said on Thursday that the EBA scheme is responsible for much of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Kingdom.

He said the decision from the government to send a team to negotiate is the right decision.

“The EU is always more reasonable and more understanding about the real situation in Cambodia, so I hope it will make a decision that benefits the Cambodian people,” Kalyan said.

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said Cambodia’s social security policy proved there were steps being taken to improve the conditions of the labour sector, adding that the minimum wage and average take-home pay were also steadily rising.

The European Commission’s 2016-2017 report, published in January, said Cambodia is the second-biggest beneficiary of the EBA scheme after Bangladesh – accounting for 18 percent of all EBA imports to the EU.

Also in January, an EU press release indicated that the bloc had started an “enhanced EBA monitoring process” for Bangladesh and Cambodia.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer