Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xiong Bo has criticised the European Union (EU) for threatening Cambodia’s participation in the bloc’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trading scheme if it failed to live up to its obligations enshrined in the trading program.
Xiong made his remarks when speaking to students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. He said the EU should not exploit the Kingdom’s political situation to put commercial and economic pressure on it.
Answering a student’s question, Xiong said trade relations should be conducted according to trade and economic rules and shouldn’t change for political reasons.
“I think in terms of trade relations between the EU and Cambodia, these trade relations should not be changed in accordance to any political reasons. It is our hope that the EU can seek to correct this path and take real action to uphold free trade.
“We think that some European countries would like to change trade rules for political reasons that would be agreed to by all European countries.
“No matter what the EU decides to do, China will continue to expand and deepen our corporation with Cambodia in all fields, especially in term of trade and economic relations,” he said.
He said the EU’s EBA scheme – which grants developing countries duty-free access for certain products to member states’ markets – should not be used as a political weapon to interfere in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.
Earlier this month, the EU said it could remove Cambodia’s duty-free access to its markets if the government failed to address perceived human rights violations, including the jailing of former opposition leader Kem Sokha and the Supreme Court dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Political analyst Meas Ny said it was normal for Western countries to impose conditions in conducting trade and investment, and that the Cambodian government should ensure that Chinese investments furthered peace.
“We want to have investment bringing peace to our country – not investment that benefits a small group of people. We are still a vulnerable country,” he said.
In June, Prime Minister Hun Sen sent senior adviser Sok Siphana to Brussels in order to persuade the EU not to withdraw the EBA scheme.
China has invested billions of dollars in Cambodia in the past few years via direct investment, loans, concessions and grants.
In supporting Xiong’s remarks, Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan insisted that the government does not violate human rights and that it is untrue that democracy had taken a step backwards in the Kingdom.
He said Ny was not independent and his remarks did not reflect the reality in Cambodia.
“The analyst just analyses without clear principles. It is just the opinion shared by one or two people and is not based on reality. Countries that promote mutual interests are honest and helpful friends – they help us and we help them."
“Cambodia receives aid from China and they say that we are under China’s influence or that we sell ourselves to China. We follow China’s policy and so we lose our independence and sovereignty, they say.
“Therefore, they should accuse the US as well because that country conducts thousands, tens of thousands times more trade with China. Why don’t they accuse the US of being under China’s influence?"
“The EU also buys products from China, so the EU should be accused of being under China’s influence as well,” he reasoned.