Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Academics: Kingdom ready for EBA, Covid



Academics: Kingdom ready for EBA, Covid

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A roundtable discussion organised by the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) in Phnom Penh on Friday. Heng Chivoan

Academics: Kingdom ready for EBA, Covid

Cambodia has been well-equipped to handle the socio-economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and the EU’s partial withdrawal of its ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) preferential trade scheme, academics said on Friday.

The suspension requires 40 products listed under Harmonised System (HS) codes to be taxed on arrival, and affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.19 billion) of Cambodia’s annual exports to the EU bloc.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) in Phnom Penh, analyst and historian Diep Sophal said the EU’s EBA withdrawal has had minimal economic impact on the Kingdom.

“Though the 20 per cent withdrawal does not affect our economy much given its current scale, the withdrawal of EBA does afflict me personally on an emotional level.

“Why does it have such an emotional impact? Because they cut . . . EBA, having wanting us to follow a democracy that they recommended for us.

“We don’t bow our heads. And who demanded the withdrawal of EBA? It was the former opposition party. They stirred up a storm, the likes which could potentially subvert a society into anarchy. The protests in 2013 led society into chaos and resulted in the dissolution of the party,” he said, referring to the former Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Sophal said the EU had turned a blind eye to a number of the Kingdom’s good deeds, including allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock after it was barred by many other nations, and sending troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

He stressed that nearly ten thousands soldiers had been sent to conflict-affected countries, about 20 of whom were killed on duty.

“Why can’t they see Cambodia’s good intentions? That’s why I wonder whether human rights laws protect criminals or the general public. What does it mean if a political party committed a crime and stirred chaos in society, but are then protected [by the EU]?” he asked.

RAC president Sok Touch was quick to point out that Covid-19 muted any effects the withdrawal could have had on the Kingdom’s economy.

The withdrawal was merely a “political bargaining tool”, he said, joking that Europeans are now confined to their homes and are no longer buying clothes and shoes, which are major Cambodian exports to the continent.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan on Sunday said the Kingdom had braced itself for the brunt of a full EBA withdrawal, noting that GDP per capita has exceeded $1,500.

“We were expecting Cambodia to lose all [of EBA] . . . Announcement of the EBA suspension came as good news for Cambodia . . . enabling us to prepare ourselves and diversify our trade markets. It was the groundwork for ‘self-reliance’.

“The government was constantly bombarded with blame for accepting foreign aid. Now that foreign aid has come to an end, we are content with our efforts, capacities and knowledge in protecting our image and sovereignty. We cannot be weak and exchange [aid] for our sovereignty,” he said.

European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) associate researcher Cindy Cao on Sunday said the EU had sanctioned Cambodia for purportedly having violated democratic principles. The intended message to the world was that the government had “violated international norms”.

She said: “This has created or reinforced an international climate of opinion very critical of the practices of the government. Many agree that the government has violated democratic principles.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American

  • Lost in translation: ‘Starvation’ in capital’s designated red zones

    “DACH bay” is a Khmer slang meaning a “loss of income”, that could also be literally translated to «deprived of rice”, which alludes to starvation. However, civil society organisation (CSO) officials have independently confirmed the government’s prior assertions that there are no cases of