The European Chamber of Commerce, the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and 30 other associations yesterday co-signed a letter to the European Commissioner for Trade expressing concern over the potential withdrawal of Cambodia’s preferential trade status under the Everything-but-arms (EBA) scheme.
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The letter, sent to European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, was signed by CCC president Kith Meng and Eurocham chairman Arnaud Darc.
In the letter, the private sector says that Cambodia’s current development would not have been achievable without the support the European Union, and emphasises the role the garment sector has played in enabling the adoption of international conventions on human and labour rights and widespread reforms in the workplace.
“The withdrawal of this arrangement will jeopardise this progress by directly harming the livelihood of millions of workers and their families that rely on employment within the garment sector, placing them once again at risk of returning to poverty.
“This is most concerning for Cambodia’s rural women, who make up 85 percent of the 700,000 garment workers, and therefore most likely to suffer the hardest from the social and economic repercussion of any change of the status quo,” the letter notes.
It says that the private sector and many Cambodians are concerned about the long-term implications that the removal of the EBA arrangement will have on the relationship between Cambodia and the EU, as it would signify an end to the engagement and open dialogue that has facilitated Cambodia’s progress.
The letter mentions the EC’s decision earlier this month to implement protectionist tariffs on Cambodia’s rice exports, saying that the “threat of sanctions has become a reality and many fear that the EU may already be turning its back on Cambodia.”
The letter ends with an appeal to the EC and European nations to continue its support of Cambodia’s development by “refraining from taking any action that will harm the interests and livelihoods of the country’s people.”