Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status

EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status

Federica Mogherini, the top EU official for foreign affairs, speaks to the media in February. She recently announced an observation mission to Cambodia to scrutinise the EU’s preferential trade agreement with the Kingdom. european union
Federica Mogherini, the top EU official for foreign affairs, speaks to the media in February. She recently announced an observation mission to Cambodia to scrutinise the EU’s preferential trade agreement with the Kingdom. European Union

EU to review Cambodia’s EBA status

The European Union has announced a “dedicated” mission to Cambodia to monitor its Generalised Scheme of Preferences, the agreement under which Cambodian goods reach the crucial European market tariff-free.

In a response to questions by parliamentarians about the political situation in Cambodia, European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini, also the bloc’s top foreign affairs official, said on Thursday that “respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms is part of the EU’s trade policy and underpins the legal basis of our trade preferences”.

“A dedicated GSP monitoring mission is foreseen in 2018,” she wrote.

The GSP currently grants Cambodian exports tax-free entry into the European market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.

A question submitted by Parliamentarian Ramon Tremosa i Balcells in response to Mogherini’s statement, not yet published but obtained by The Post on Monday, indicates that the mission is scheduled for June, and asks whether results of the “June fact-finding mission to Cambodia” would be made public.

The question also asks the commission to confirm that the European Union delegation in Cambodia was denied access to jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Multiple European Commission representatives and the EU delegation in Cambodia did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

A participant present at a closed-door meeting between the European Commission and European Parliament on April 25 said the commission had told participants they would first conduct a fact-finding mission in Cambodia in June, and that further steps could be taken after elections.

“After the elections, and also depending on the process, they will consider targeted restrictive measures,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the session was not public. “I think [the European Commission] is feeling that business as usual [is] no longer acceptable.”

Though the attendee said the commission did not mention any concrete measures, a previous European Parliament resolution had called for, among others, visa sanctions and freezing assets of high-ranking government officials in response to an ongoing crackdown on the opposition , civil society, and media in Cambodia.

Under the GSP agreement, the tariff preferences can be temporary or fully withdrawn in the case of human rights abuses.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

According to the European Commission’s 2016-2017 report – published in January – Cambodia is the second-biggest beneficiary of the EBA scheme after Bangladesh, accounting for 18 percent of all EBA imports to the EU.

Also in January, the EU announced enhanced scrutiny in the form of GSP monitoring missions over the following two years for countries in which “strengthened efforts are required due to more serious shortcomings”.

Another January press release indicated that the EU had started the “enhanced EBA monitoring process” for Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Astrid Norén-Nilsson, an expert on Cambodian politics at Lund University, said a partial suspension of the agreement was possible. “I would be surprised if the EU entirely suspended the EBA scheme,” she said. “But it is possible that the EU could partially suspend the scheme after the elections.”

Political commentator Meas Nee said the agreement was tied to human rights and could be suspended in case of breaches. However, he said, timing was important. “They have to wait until after the election,” he said. “In case the government will not be legitimised, then sanctions could be their preference.”

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay, however, warned that imposing EBA sanctions may not have the intended effect.

“To suspend EBA would be tantamount to punishing the innocent workers, producers and exporters and let go those responsible for the present political situation of the country. It would not be right and ethical to do so,” he said in a message. “The real culprits should be punished. They should blamed and shamed, and shunned in international fora.”

MOST VIEWED

  • No more Africa travel ban but new rules for arrivals

    The Ministry of Health has decided to lift the ban on travellers from or who have travelled through 10 African countries and instead issued a set of standard operating procedures to manage passenger arrivals at Cambodia’s international airports. The 10 African countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • PM blasts Vietnam general over Covid claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 6 expressed dismay after Vietnamese general Hoang Xuan Chien, formerly in charge of Vietnam’s border defences, claimed that Cambodia was a source of Covid-19 transmissions to the country. Speaking at the opening ceremony for National Road 11 connecting Prey Veng