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EU curbs Cambodia's trade access over human rights

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EU curbs Cambodia's trade access over human rights

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(BRUSSELS) - Some of Cambodia's typical export products to the EU, such as garments, footwear and travel goods became subject to EU customs duties as of Wednesday over increased concern about human rights.

Cambodia's duty-free quota-free access to the EU market under "Everything But Arms" (EBA) – the EU's trade arrangement for Least Developed Countries – has been temporarily lifted, the Commission says, due to "serious and systematic concerns related to human rights ascertained in the country".

Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan said the EU's continued support did not diminish "the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights." He added that the EU would restore fully free access to the EU market for Cambodia products "provided we see substantial improvement in that respect".

The withdrawal of preferential access to the EU market concerns approximately 20% of Cambodia's exports to the EU. Cambodia may still export those products to the EU but they will be subject to general tariffs applicable to any other member of the World Trade Organization. The remaining 80% of Cambodia's exports continue to enjoy preferential (duty-free, quota-free) access to the EU market.

The EU says it will keep monitoring the situation in the country, with a particular focus on current restrictions in the areas of freedom of expression and civil and political rights, as well as land disputes and labour rights in the context of the ongoing reforms.

The EU says it is aware of the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Cambodia's economy and employment and stands ready to support the country in its fight against the coronavirus crisis and towards economic recovery. This, however, does not waive the urgent need to ensure respect for human rights and labour rights in Cambodia.

Since February 2020, when the EU's decision on partial withdrawal was taken, the Cambodian Government could at any time have taken steps to fulfil the conditions allowing the EU to fully restore EBA preferential access to the EU market. This remains the case, says the Commission.

It adds that the Cambodian authorities should take action to restore political freedoms in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for a credible, democratic opposition and to initiate a process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue. The Commission and the EEAS have outlined the necessary actions to the Cambodian authorities on numerous occasions, as well as in the Commission's Delegated Regulation. Actions include the reinstatement of the political rights of opposition members and the repeal or revision of laws, such as the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations. If the government of Cambodia shows significant progress, particularly on civil and political rights, the Commission may review its decision and reinstate tariff preferences under the "Everything But Arms" arrangement, in line with the provisions of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

EU Everything But Arms trade preferences

EU-Cambodia trade relations

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