In February, the EU partially withdrew the tariff preferences for Cambodia under its ‘Everything but Arms’ (EBA) trading scheme due to systematic human rights violations. The Commission had deliberated the withdrawal for a year after Cambodia’s Prime Minister of the last 35 years, Hun Sen, banned the only viable opposition party in the country and prosecuted its leadership. The economic consequences for Cambodia as the largest beneficiary of EBA are predicted to be dire – approximately a 3% reduction of GDP growth according to the IMF. To the ire of Cambodia, the EU barely reacted when the Thailand banned a major opposition party and rewarded the authoritarian regime in Vietnam with an FTA. There were widespread charges of EU hypocrisy and inconsistency. But arguably there is a strategic calculus behind the EU’s application of sanctions for human rights violations that can be distilled from its recent actions.