The government is currently reviewing the European Commission’s preliminary report on whether the Kingdom should retain its Everything-but-arms trade status.
The EBA status allows preferential access to the European Union market. It has been under review by the EC since February. The EC said duty-free trade under the EBA may be suspended due to serious and systematic violations of labour and human rights.
The EC in a statement on Tuesday said the preliminary report, which outlined findings that triggered an investigation in February, was finalised and sent to the government.
“Cambodia now has one month to react to this preliminary report,” it said. “The Commission will then finalise the report and decide in February 2020 on whether or not to temporarily withdraw Cambodia’s tariff preferences.”
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, yesterday said the EC’s report is now being reviewed by a government working group made up of officials from various public institutions, noting the government will respond to the preliminary report before December 12.
“This report is not the EC’s final decision. Therefore, we will have time to study and respond at an appropriate moment,” he said. “Our officials need time to go through the report in detail and see what the areas of concern are before we respond and explain.”
Mr Kuong said government officials have been working with the EC’s fact-finding team over the past few months with the hope of retaining the Kingdom’s EBA status.
“We were honest to each other – there was no hiding of information,” he said. “We warmly welcomed them during their mission and visited them overseas to explain Cambodia’s situation in terms of democracy and human rights protection. We have done a lot.”
Cambodian imports under the EBA accounted for 18 percent of all imports coming into the EU market under the scheme last year. The imports, which included clothes and textile products, were worth about $6 billion in 2018.
EU commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström on Tuesday tweeted there are still concerns regarding human rights in the Kingdom.
“We are very concerned about the human rights situation there,” Ms Malmström said. “Cambodians now have one month to respond and we will make our final decision next year.”
Chin Malin, vice president of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee, said the government does not want the Kingdom’s EBA status to be suspended.
“The government is committed to retaining the EBA status,” Mr Malin said. “We have pledged to work closely with the [EC].”
“We must assure the [EC] that action taken by the government was not a violation of human rights or democracy,” he added.
Mr Malin was referring to the dissolution of the former opposition CNRP by the Supreme Court in 2017.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said it will be difficult for the government not to yield to pressure from the EC to restore human rights and democracy in the Kingdom.
“Let the government restore its self-confidence first, then it will be able to normalise the current situation in the country,” Mr Mong Hay said.
Additional reporting by Poovenraj Kanagaraj
- Tags: Everything But Arms