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EU-Asean relations could be better, says Hun Sen

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Asean and EU ministers in past meeting. Relations has been strained with selected Asean countries. ASEAN

Cambodia’s  Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that the EU has poor relations with some of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

“Europe today has unpleasant relations with ASEAN. At least five countries in ASEAN have issues with the EU. Europe has ceased to purchase palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, which would create tensions in the relations among these countries,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Europe also targets Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines in terms of human rights issues,” he added.

For these reasons, the premier expressed concerns over the uncertainties of EU-ASEAN strategic partnership given the fact that EU constantly interferes in the internal affairs of the ASEAN countries.

Mr. Hun Sen’s statement last Friday comes amidst the EU’s decision to upgrade relations with Asean  was taken by the EU and ASEAN countries’ Foreign Ministers at the EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on 21 January 2019.

EU-ASEAN (consisting of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) relations date back to 1977 when official “Dialogue Relations” began.

The EU is the largest investor into the ASEAN region, accounting for almost a third of all foreign direct investment (FDI). It is also the bloc’s second-largest trading partner, with total two-way trade standing at US$265 billion in 2018. A region-to-region trade deal would have a profound impact on FDI inflows and ASEAN export volumes.

However, Cambodia faces challenges with the EU over rights, land issues, labour and political motivations which has brought into the forefront, the looming EU’s EBA decision on Cambodia, to revoke or to maintain, partially or fully.

EU is expected to make the decision this month which puts in question the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of garment and footwear workers.

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