Brussels withdraws Cambodia’s market privileges over rights violations

The European Commission has decided to withdraw part of the tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the European Union’s Everything But Arms’ (EBA) trade scheme due to the serious and systematic violations of the human rights principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The withdrawal of tariff preferences and their replacement with the EU’s standard tariffs will affect selected garment and footwear products, and all travel goods and sugar, the Commission said in a press statement yesterday.

The withdrawal amounts to around one-fifth or €1 billion of Cambodia’s annual exports to the bloc.

This policy will take effect on August 12 unless the European Parliament and the European Council object.

“The duration, scale, and impact of Cambodia’s violations of the rights to political participation and the freedoms of expression and association left the European Union with no other choice than to partially withdraw trade preferences,” said Commission Vice President Josep Borrell.

“The European Union will not stand and watch as democracy is eroded, human rights curtailed, and free debate silenced.”

He said the decision reflects the bloc’s strong commitment to the Cambodian people, their rights, and the country’s sustainable development.

“For the trade preferences to be reinstated, the Cambodian authorities need to take the necessary measures,” Mr. Borrell went on.

The bloc’s trade commissioner Phil Hogan said the respect for human rights is “non-negotiable” for the EU.

“We recognize the progress Cambodia has made, but serious concerns remain. Our aim is that the Cambodian authorities end human rights violations, and we will continue working with them in order to achieve that,” Mr. Hogan explained.

The decision addresses the human rights violations that triggered the procedure, while at the same time preserving the development objective of the EU trade scheme, the Commission added.

It recognizes the need to continue to support Cambodia’s economic development and diversification of its exports. All emerging industries in Cambodia will continue to enjoy duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market. High value-added garments and certain types of footwear will also continue to enjoy duty-free, quota-free access to the EU market.

The EU recently told the Myanmar Times that it would continue to engage with Myanmar over the possible withdrawal of EBA trade privileges.

Under the existing agreement, Myanmar enjoys tariff-free access to the bloc for all exports except weapons and ammunition.

Source: Myanmar Times

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