Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Final day for EU to get EBA withdrawal views

Final day for EU to get EBA withdrawal views

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Garment Workers will be among the most severely impacted should Cambodia lose its Everything But Arms trade preferences with the EU. Hong Menea

Final day for EU to get EBA withdrawal views

Today (Tuesday) marks the final day for the EU Commission for Trade to receive the opinions of the EU bloc’s 28 member-states before deciding whether to suspend the Everything But Arms (EBA) tariff preferences for Cambodia.

However a unanimous decision will be required to withdraw EBA, said a source familiar with the matter. Failing unanimity, the final decision will be placed in the hands of the EU Commission for Trade itself.

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom and the European External Action Service (EEAS) launched the internal process to start the EBA suspension procedure for Cambodia last October.

They said the decision was made due to serious concerns over developments in Cambodia in relation to respect for the rights and freedoms embodied in 15 UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Fundamental Conventions on human rights and labour rights.

In email interviews with The Post, spokespersons for the EU Commission for Trade and George Edgar, EU ambassador to Cambodia, said the same thing: “Internal work is still ongoing and, in the framework of the relevant regulation, the European Commission is now in the process of consulting Member States.”

But a source familiar with the EBA withdrawal procedures told The Post on condition of anonymity that the EU Commission for Trade had sought opinions from the bloc’s permanent representatives since last week and set today (January 29) as the last day to receive feedback.

“A week ago, the EU Commission for Trade asked the permanent representatives the opinion of their governments about the possible suspension of EBA for Cambodia."

“I think the majority of the 28 governments will not give an opinion on the suspension. And when there is no consensus on trade matters, it is up to the EU Commission for Trade to make a final decision,” the source said.

The source added that the Cambodian government had made known to all EU member states its position on the issues raised by the EU.

Edgar said the formal procedure to withdraw the EBA would take 12 months, either wholly or in part. He said the EU kept the channels of dialogue with Cambodia open.

“This openness to dialogue was reiterated by Commissioner Malmstrom during a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia that took place in Brussels on January 21,” hesaid.

Cambodian government adviser Sok Siphana, who is also a member of the Cambodian delegation that met with Malmstrom last week, declined to comment on the matter, while Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ket Sophann could not be reached.

On Monday, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan reiterated the government’s position in prioritising independence and sovereignty. He said Cambodia would continue being an EU trading partner, even if the EBA is eventually withdrawn.

In the meantime, Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has written to the EU to reiterate his support for the EBA’s withdrawal.

He claimed that such an action would “defend human rights and restore democracy in Cambodia”.

“On behalf of the Cambodian citizens from all walks of life that the CNRP continues to represent, I would like to confirm to the EU that the response it is considering to address the totalitarian drift in Cambodia – namely a suspension of the EBA programme – is acceptable and appropriate in our eyes,” he said.

He said Cambodians would endure some temporary hardship due to the EBA’s suspension, but claimed they would have a better future for themselves and their children.

However, Rainsy’s letter to the EU was slammed by ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan who said it was written purely to give the impression that Rainsy is an important person who can push the EU to suspend the EBA.

“But actually, whatever the EU decides is not linked with the letter from convict Sam Rainy,” he stressed on Monday.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the current political development in Cambodian may not halt the EBA’s suspension.

“Our prime minister’s refusal to fulfil the EBA’s human rights requirements may well compel those representatives to support the withdrawal of the EBA,” he said.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relation Institute of Royal Academy of Cambodia said the cards were in the EU’s hands. But he said Cambodia should not be deprived of the EBA status.

“If we look at the real situation, it is not so serious that the EU needs to suspend the EBA. Human rights and democracy in Cambodia is still vivid. The political sphere is still normal. If it is suspended, it comes only with an agenda and is not based on facts,” he said.

With regards to Sam Rainsy’s letter to the EU, Phea questioned the nature of a politician who is bent on seeing his own people suffering.

“It is unfortunate that we have a politician who is happy to see his country be sanctioned. I cannot say what kind of person he is,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Eighty replacement peacekeepers set for Mali mission despite Covid

    Eighty Cambodian blue helmet soldiers who completed the peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella in Mali will return to Cambodia on Friday, said the Centre for Peacekeeping Forces spokeswoman Kosal Malida. “To protect their families and communities from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80 are required to

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this