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Minister to discuss EBA with EU’s trade commissioner

May Kunmakara / Khmer Times Share:
A woman works at a garment factory in Phnom Penh. KT/Mai Vireak

Prak Sokhonn, the Cambodian Foreign Minister, will meet European Union’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in Brussels next month to push forward the Kingdom’s viewpoint on the potential cancellation of the Everything-but-arms (EBA) scheme.

The meeting is set to take place at the sidelines of an Asean-EU meeting on Jan 21.

Earlier this year, the EU began the process of withdrawing Cambodia’s EBA status, which could take up to six months and is being done due to perceived democratic and human rights setbacks in the Kingdom.

According to ministry spokesman Ket Sophann, plans for a meeting with Ms Malmstrom first surfaced during a meeting between Minister Sokhonn and the newly-appointed Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, earlier this week.

Mr Sophann said the government maintains the same position regarding the EBA issue, and that its intention is to negotiate with the EU to find a solution to the concerns of the European bloc.

“At the sidelines of the EU-Asean meeting, our foreign minister plans to meet the EU’s trade commissioner.

“As you know, the EU already launched a review of the EBA scheme it has with Cambodia. Our foreign minister will continue to work with them to make sure the EU continues to provide Cambodia EBA benefits.

“The government is redoubling efforts negotiating with the EU to save the EBA. I believe that both sides will continue the dialogue. The meeting with the EU’s trade commissioner proves that we are still working together to solve any issues.

Yesterday, the Senate approved an amendment to Article 45 that could pave the way for hundreds of banned former opposition members to re-enter the political arena. Likewise, a few weeks after the new government formed in early September, many human rights and political activists were released from prison. Both events are seen as positive developments in the struggle to retain the EBA scheme.

The EBA has contributed to significant job creation and growth in the textile sector, which makes up 75 percent of Cambodian exports to the EU. Accounting for 46 percent of garment exports, the European bloc is the top buyer of Cambodian garments, followed by the United States (24 percent), Japan (16 percent) and Canada (9 percent).

The EBA removal would incur a cost of $676 million in taxes based on last year’s export revenue, according to government figures.

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