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GMAC sues​ EU in European court for withdrawing EBA scheme

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Workers leave a garment factory after work at Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district last week. Hong Menea

GMAC sues​ EU in European court for withdrawing EBA scheme

The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, requesting that the EU’s 20 per cent withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme be annulled.

GMAC based its complaint on two legal pleas and an alleged Customs code violation.

According to an EU journal, GMAC filed the complaint on July 16. GMAC is being represented by lawyers C Ziegler and S Monti.

In its complaint, GMAC asked the court to annul the EC’s decision to temporarily withdraw EBA benefits because, while the export of 40 different goods from Cambodia to the EU is affected by the withdrawal of 20 per cent of the EBA scheme, of the 40 items, white sugar with HS code 121293 is not among the goods produced by GMAC members.

Additionally, GMAC demanded that the EC pay for the handling of the case, according to the journal.

GMAC made two other pleas concerning the EBA withdrawal. First, it alleged that the EU’s decision violates the principle of proportionality and the requirement of consistency between the EU’s policies and activities.

“The Commission allegedly failed to properly assess the proportionality of the partial temporary withdrawal of Customs preferences for the Cambodian garments, footwear and travel goods sectors,” GMAC said.

The second plea alleged that there was a violation of the applicant’s procedural rights due to the EC’s failure to provide adequate reasoning pursuant to Article 296(2) TFEU, corresponding to a violation of the right to good administration.

GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said on Sunday that the claim was made to oppose the decision to withdraw 20 per cent of the EBA scheme.

He said the complaint was used as a last resort after other efforts failed to reverse the EC’s decision.

The European Court of Justice said case file T-454/20 was sent to the court on August 14, 2020. But a date has not been set to hear it.

Spokespersons for the EC and the European Court of Justice could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

In February, the EC decided to withdraw 20 per cent of the EBA scheme, claiming that Cambodia had violated human and labour rights, and that democracy in Cambodia had declined.

The withdrawal took effect on August 12. However, the government has denied the allegations.

Concerning the issue, Prime Minister Hun Sen mentioned the EBA withdrawal in a message at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

He said the EU had partially withdrawn EBA benefits from Cambodia while it was struggling to overcome the spread of Covid-19.

“I believe history repeats itself in the case of the EU’s withdrawal of the EBA at a time when Cambodia struggles to survive amid the Covid-19 pandemic. That struggle notwithstanding, Cambodia is strongly determined, as it was 40 years ago, to defend what it believes is the rightful path.

“That is, to defend our sovereignty and protect our hard-won peace, which is fully cherished by Cambodians who have gone through the most tragic devastation and are now rising as a nation to have an equal footing, status and rights as other nations in the region and the world.”

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