Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status



EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status

Federica Mogherini, the top EU official for foreign affairs, speaks to the media in February. She recently announced an observation mission to Cambodia to scrutinise the EU’s preferential trade agreement with the Kingdom. european union
Federica Mogherini, the top EU official for foreign affairs, speaks to the media in February. She recently announced an observation mission to Cambodia to scrutinise the EU’s preferential trade agreement with the Kingdom. European Union

EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status

The European Union has announced a “dedicated” mission to Cambodia to monitor its Generalised Scheme of Preferences, the agreement under which Cambodian goods reach the crucial European market tariff-free.

In a response to questions by parliamentarians about the political situation in Cambodia, European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, also the bloc’s top foreign affairs official, said on Thursday that “respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms is part of the EU’s trade policy and underpins the legal basis of our trade preferences”.

“A dedicated GSP monitoring mission is foreseen in 2018,” she wrote.

The GSP currently grants Cambodian exports tax-free entry into the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

A question submitted by Parliamentarian Ramon Tremosa i Balcells in response to Mogherini’s statement, not yet published but obtained by The Post on Monday, indicates that the mission is scheduled for June, and asks whether results of the “June fact-finding mission to Cambodia” would be made public.

The question also asks the commission to confirm that the European Union delegation in Cambodia was denied access to jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Multiple European Commission representatives and the EU delegation in Cambodia did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

A participant present at a closed-door meeting between the European Commission and European Parliament on April 25 said the commission had told participants they would first conduct a fact-finding mission in Cambodia in June, and that further steps could be taken after elections.

“After the elections, and also depending on the process, they will consider targeted restrictive measures,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the session was not public. “I think [the European Commission] is feeling that business as usual [is] no longer acceptable.”

Though the attendee said the commission did not mention any concrete measures, a previous European Parliament resolution had called for, among others, visa sanctions and freezing assets of high-ranking government officials in response to an ongoing crackdown on the opposition , civil society, and media in Cambodia.

Under the GSP agreement, the tariff preferences can be temporary or fully withdrawn in the case of human rights abuses.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

According to the European Commission’s 2016-2017 report – published in January – 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, the EU announced enhanced scrutiny in the form of GSP monitoring missions over the following two years for countries in which “strengthened efforts are required due to more serious shortcomings”.

Another January press release indicated that the EU had started the “enhanced EBA monitoring process” for Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Astrid Norén-Nilsson, an expert on Cambodian politics at Lund University, said a partial suspension of the agreement was possible. “I would be surprised if the EU entirely suspended the EBA scheme,” she said. “But it is possible that the EU could partially suspend the scheme after the elections.”

Political commentator Meas Nee said the agreement was tied to human rights and could be suspended in case of breaches. However, he said, timing was important. “They have to wait until after the election,” he said. “In case the government will not be legitimised, then sanctions could be their preference.”

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay, however, warned that imposing EBA sanctions may not have the intended effect.

“To suspend EBA would be tantamount to punishing the innocent workers, producers and exporters and let go those responsible for the present political situation of the country. It would not be right and ethical to do so,” he said in a message. “The real culprits should be punished. They should blamed and shamed, and shunned in international fora.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting