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

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from