Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday asked Chinese investors to continue doing business in the Kingdom even if the Everything-but-arms (EBA) deal with the European Union is withdrawn.
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In February, the EU started a six-month process of intense monitoring and engagement that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the bloc’s market under the EBA trade scheme.
In a Facebook post issued shortly after a meeting with Chinese investors in Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace, Mr Hun Sen urged Chinese firms to continue business as usual regardless of the outcome of the EBA issue.
“No matter what happens, even if the EBA scheme is dropped, I call on Chinese people investing in Cambodia to not worry, and ask those that are now thinking about investing here to go ahead; we welcome your investment,” the premier said.
In his statement, Mr Hun Sen said he had met a delegation of business representatives from different Chinese provinces that have “potential” for Cambodia and that are seeking business opportunities here.
Mr Hun Sen also asked the Chinese government to further promote the Cambodian market at home, particularly Cambodian agricultural products.
The premier also noted in the post that trade between Cambodia and the East Asian giant is on the rise and is expected to reach $10 billion by 2022.
During Mr Hun Sen’s state visit to Beijing in April to attend the Belt and Road Initiative Forum, Wang Huning, member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party, told Mr Hun Sen that China will help the Kingdom if the EBA is scraped.
“China has studied the impact that the withdrawal of the EBA will have on Cambodia and has found that the impact would not be serious,” he said.
The European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (Eurocham) issued a press release last month calling on the European Commission to seriously consider the consequences of withdrawing the agreement.
Eurocham said the removal of Cambodia’s EBA status will be tantamount to the imposition of sanctions, which will jeopardise Europe’s investments, businesses, and development initiatives in Cambodia as well as the livelihoods of Cambodian citizens.
Former EU Ambassador to Cambodia George Edgar said in August he hopes the Cambodian government will address the concerns raised by the EU regarding compliance with conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations.
Mr Edgar said he expects positive results for Cambodia if the EU’s concerns are taken seriously, adding that he doesn’t want to see Cambodia lose the trade preferences it enjoys under the EBA.
“Everybody knows that a procedure has been launched that could potentially lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s trade preferences. We have underlined repeatedly that [the suspension of the EBA] is not the necessary outcome of the procedure and it is not the outcome the European Union wants to see,” Mr Edgar said.
According to EU data, Cambodia exported $5.3 billion worth of products to the EU market in 2018.