Croatia yesterday vowed to support Cambodia’s efforts to retain its Everything-but-arms trade status, which is under review by the European Commission over perceived setbacks to human rights and democracy.
The pledge was made by its outgoing Ambassador Kreso Glavac who paid a farewell courtesy call to Foreign Affairs minister Prak Sokhonn at the ministry yesterday.
The EC is expected to make a decision on the EBA status by February and Croatia will assume the bloc’s rotating presidency from January till June.
Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann told reporters after the meeting that Mr Sokhonn had requested Croatia’s help.
He said the ambassador stressed that his country will be taking over the EU presidency in January and will do its best to convince member states to keep the Kingdoms EBA status.
“During the period of time when Croatia is EU president, we will support Cambodia’s efforts to retain the EBA,” Mr Sophann quoted Mr Glavac as saying. “Croatia is good friend with other EU members.”
Mr Sophann noted that the ambassador had invited Mr Sokhonn to pay an official visit to Croatia at an appropriate time in the future.
He said the minister informed Mr Glavac that although Cambodia is facing problems over the preferential tariff scheme, the Kingdom remains committed to continuing dialogue and good cooperation with EU members.
Recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, all EU members, to push for stronger cooperation and lobby for support in regards to the Kingdom’s bid to retain the EBA, which is vital for its economy and the livelihoods of the garment sector’s nearly 800,000 workers.
Mr Sophann said that during their meeting, Mr Sokhonn and Mr Glavac also discussed boosting cooperation in the commercial, economic, and tourism sectors.
He noted that both countries are currently working toward signing a memorandum of understanding to establish a mechanism for political dialogue between their respective foreign ministries.
“When we have signed the agreement it will become a forum for us to review past cooperation and determine future goals,” Mr Sophann said.
With duty-free access under the EBA, the EU is Cambodia’s biggest market for textile and garment products. The EU market now accounts for about 40 percent of Cambodia’s export. Between 2011 and 2016 exports to the EU rose by 227 percent, reaching $5.77 billion in value in 2017.