It seems so long ago (though it was only in February) that the European Union finally decided to partially remove Cambodia’s trade privileges under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. So much, as they say, has happened since.
As I laid out back in January 2019 in The Diplomat, Brussels had every right to withdraw Cambodia from the preferential trade scheme, a response to Phnom Penh forcibly dissolving the country’s only viable opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), over spurious claims of plotting a U.S.-backed coup; the arrest of the party’s leader, Kem Sokha, on treason charges; and other repressive actions.
The problem for the EU now is that the effects of the EBA’s withdrawal are going to be difficult to ascertain, given the COVID-19 pandemic has already decimated parts of the economy. The Asian Development Bank expects Cambodia’s economy to contract by as much as 5.5 percent this year.