The EU has recently issued a statement regarding its trade preference in the Everything but Arms (EBA) programme for Cambodia. The EBA for Cambodia should be treated as a mutual benefit between Cambodia as a production country and the EU as a consumer. For Cambodia, EBA serves nearly one million workers and their families. In turn the EU receives quality, handmade and meticulous products priced reasonably. It’s a win-win situation for both.
Unfortunately, while the EU fact finding commission and the Cambodian goodwill delegation are working to maintain the EBA for all, the EU commission in Brussels issued a statement from which opportunists exploited and confused public perception. This statement in turn has been circulated for political gains through Kem Sokha’s Facebook page and also the Facebook page of Radio Free Asia – a foreign funded amateur media.
In fact, EBA as a trade preference cannot be just ended with a short statement. Any future decision regarding the removal or continuation of EBA with Cambodia must be made by three main components – EU member states, European Council and the European Commission. Those who initiated discussion on EBA with Cambodia are a few members of the European Parliament who have political agendas when it comes to Cambodia.
Regarding the textile industry in Cambodia, in the past five years the ILO has acknowledged that conditions have dramatically improved in factory workplaces, wages have increased, workers’ welfare improved and also the representative roles of unions expanded. Cambodian factories are complying effectively with EBA requirements. With these improvements, EBA should not be used as a hostage to serve some political purposes here in Cambodia and the European Parliament.
The relations between Cambodia and European countries have been in good standing for over 20 years. These relations should be cherished for generations to come for the benefit of all. Trade relations are helping to promote human rights and democratisation in Cambodia. It also helps improving the image and roles of the EU in Asia and the world beyond.
We believe the EU will keep EBA as a bridge to continue cooperating with Cambodia on broader and more meaningful programmes in many fields for human development and for a brighter future for both partners.
Alexander Johnson is a Volunteer, Union of Journalist Federations of Cambodia