Is it ‘fair’ to punish Cambodians for gov’t’s actions?

After I published yet another story in Asia Times last week on the possibility of Cambodia being removed from the United States’ and European Union’s preferential trade deals (the GSP and EBA respectively, which grant quota and tariff-free status to some Cambodian exports), I received a message on Twitter posing a question I realize I haven’t yet tried to tackle. “Would you,” I was asked, “consider as ‘fair’ any measure that would affect any innocent and vulnerable communities that are not responsible for the current ‘democratic’ situation in Cambodia and why?”

To put it briefly, numerous business organizations, trade unions and the Cambodian government itself have argued that the EU and US shouldn’t remove Cambodia’s preferential trade terms because it would disproportionally affect ordinary workers and the poorest in society. It is thought that with tariffs and quotas reimposed on Cambodian exports, the country’s vital manufacturing sector would slump, as businesses move operations elsewhere, and the country’s 800,000-plus textile workers would face mass layoffs.

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