The partial withdrawal of EBA marks the failure of the EU’s engagement with Cambodia

The EU tried to push Cambodia on human rights by leveraging its preferential trade program. In partially withdrawing the program, it has entered a new phase of relations with the Hun Sen government.

Earlier this month the EU announced it will suspend a portion of Cambodia’s free trade privileges due to the country’s ongoing human rights violations, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars. The decision has drawn much attention for its economic impacts and what it means for those working to improve the country’s atrophying human rights situation.

On February 12, the EU announced that it is withdrawing trade preferences given to Cambodia under the Everything But Arms (EBA) program. Cambodian producers of a range of products, including many types of garments, shoes and sugar, will no longer have duty-free access to EU markets.

Instead of swaying the country’s entrenched government, the withdrawal will primarily affect the decisions of foreign investors and corporations that have financed Cambodia’s growing economy. Investors that focus on EU markets will begin to turn elsewhere, while those driven by Chinese interests will continue to move in.

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