Cambodia shrugs off EU trade benefit concerns

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has reportedly waived off concerns at pressure from the European Union (EU) to improve the country's human rights record or risk losing its preferential trade status.

The European Commission last month gave the Cambodian government a one-month deadline to respond to its findings on the alleged human rights situation in the country before it decides whether it is pulling its duty-free trade benefit.

Cambodia is the second-largest beneficiary of Everything But Arms trade preferences, accounting for over 18% of all imports coming into the EU market under the EBA scheme in 2018. EU imports from Cambodia totalled EUR5.3bn in 2018, 95% of which took advantage of EBA preferences. Clothing and textiles account for around three-quarters of EU imports from Cambodia at EUR4bn.

In February the EU Commission started the process that could lead to a temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential tariff arrangements under the EBA trade scheme. EBA preferences can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights and labour rights – and the EU has for some time been concerned about human rights violations in Cambodia.

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