The European Union recently told Cambodia that the Kingdom will lose its special access to the world’s largest trading bloc, saying that it was ready to punish human rights abuses in the country. The EU warned that it has launched a six-month review of Cambodia’s duty-free access to the EU; meaning garments, sugar and other exports could face tariffs within the next 12 months. Around 40 percent of Cambodia’s gross domestic product comes from garment exports, making it vital to its economy. However, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s stance has remained one of defiance.
Observers have pointed to the United States-China trade war as the reason for Hun Sen’s apparent lack of concern. In 2017, despite numerous human rights violations having allegedly been committed under Hun Sen’s rule, investments from Beijing still came pouring in. Towards the end of the year, Chinese firms had pledged to invest US$7 billion in development projects, including an expressway connecting the capital, Phnom Penh and the coastal port city of Sihanoukville, a satellite city just outside the capital, a tourism centre and the launching of a commercial bank.
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