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Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

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A man carries a bag of rice from a truck in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

The European General Court has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) request to reject a complaint submitted by Cambodia and the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) regarding the EU’s reintroduction of tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia.

A court order uploaded to the European Law Journal on September 10 said the EC had submitted a plea requesting the court to dismiss Cambodia’s complaint and regard it as inadmissible.

But Cambodia and the CRF argued that the court should reject the EC’s plea of inadmissibility and annul the contested regulation on the rice exports.

The court order said: “The General Court [Fifth Chamber, Extended Composition] hereby orders: The plea of inadmissibility is rejected.”

Cambodia and the CRF last April took the EC to court for the commission’s decision to reintroduce import duties for Indica rice from Cambodia for three years.

The reintroduction of import duties required Cambodia to pay €175 ($201) per tonne in the first year, €150 per tonne in year two, and €125 per tonne in year three, effective from January 18, last year.

The EC said Cambodia and the CRF did not satisfy the standing requirements to bring proceedings as stated in Article 263 TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

The commission said the re-introduced regulations did not apply to the territory of Cambodia and therefore had no binding legal effect on Cambodia or the CRF.

It said the decision did not prevent the export of Indica rice from Cambodia to the EU. At most, the regulations may bring about a possible decline in sales, the EC said. The regulation did not cause any personal damage to the Kingdom of Cambodia or the CRF, it said.

But the court chamber objected to the EC’s claim. It said: “The contested regulation thus has direct legal effects on the Kingdom of Cambodia since by means of that regulation; the commission has changed the legal situation of the Kingdom of Cambodia as a country benefiting from the full suspension of Common Customs Tariff duties.

“Therefore, the commission’s arguments relating to the fact that the contested regulation has no legal effect on the Kingdom of Cambodia and does not affect exports of Indica rice to the European Union must be rejected.”

The court said that temporarily reintroducing the Common Customs Tariff duties on imports of the product is tantamount to limiting the access of certain entities to the EU market, including the Kingdom of Cambodia. It said the contested regulation caused significant economic damage for Cambodia.

“It follows from all the foregoing that the plea of inadmissibility must be rejected,” the court said.

Three lawyers representing Cambodia and the CRF – R. Antonini, E. Monard and B. Maniatis – did not respond to The Post’s queries as of press time on Monday.

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