Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last week pledged to support the Kingdom in the ongoing battle to preserve the Everything-but-arms (EBA) scheme by advocating the Cambodian position to the European Union.
Mr Orban made the pledge during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s state visit to the central European nation on June 13-14.
“Hungary has always stood by and supported Cambodia. We will advocate on behalf of Cambodia to the European Union regarding the EBA,” Mr Orban was quoted as saying in a statement from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The EU in February launched a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement to analyse whether Cambodia should lose its EBA trade status.
The EU and the United States demand that the government restores democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms after the main opposition party, CNRP, was dissolved in Nov 2017.
A European Commission and European External Action Service delegation wrapped up a visit to the Kingdom on June 10 and issued a statement on June 11 regarding its ongoing review of the Kingdom’s right to access the EBA.
In the statement, the EC highlighted concerns regarding the violation and potential violation of political rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association, rights to organise and collective bargaining and dispossession of families caused by economic land concessions.
The EC noted that steps toward improving compliance have been taken by the government and it will continue to monitor the situation until mid-August. “Following that date, the EU will produce a report of its findings and conclusions,” it said. “Cambodia will have one month to reply to this report.”
Cambodia is the second largest beneficiary of EBA trade preferences, accounting for over 18 percent of all imports coming into the EU market in 2018. Exports from Cambodia to the EU totalled 5.3 billion euro (about $6 billion) in 2018, with over 95 percent eligible for EBA preferences. Clothing and textiles accounted for three-quarters of these exports and were valued at 4 billion euro (about $4.5 billion).
Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Hungary for its support and said he will continue to build the relationship between the two countries, particularly with regards to the economy.
“Both countries need to build more cooperation particularly in the economy, trade, and tourism,” he said.
Mr Orban said a large number of Hungarian companies are interested in investing in Cambodia, adding that Hungary’s Export-Import Bank is ready to provide financing to these firms.
“With the progress of Cambodia’s economy, and through this official visit of Prime Minister Hun Sen, we are ready to help each other,” he added.
During Hun Sen’s state visit, Cambodia and Hungary will sign agreements on cooperation and development, as well as on an education exchange programme.