The European Union (EU) has initiated the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia’s preferential access to the EU market under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. EBA preferences can be removed if beneficiary countries fail to respect core human rights and labour rights under the United Nations conventions.
Member states gave their approval to the European Commission (EC) proposal to launch the withdrawal procedure at the end of January 2019, according to an EU press release.
The process involves a six-month period of intensive monitoring and engagement with the Cambodian authorities, followed by another three-month period for the EU to produce a report based on the findings.
After 12 months, the EC will conclude the procedure with a final decision on whether or not to withdraw tariff preferences. It is at this stage that the EC will decide the scope and duration of the withdrawal. Any withdrawal would come into effect after a further six-month period.
Following a period of enhanced engagement, including a fact-finding mission to Cambodia in July 2018 and subsequent bilateral meetings at the highest level, EC has concluded that there is evidence of serious and systematic violations of core human rights and labour rights in Cambodia, in particular of the rights to political participation as well as of the freedoms of assembly, expression and association.
“Over the last eighteen months, we have seen the deterioration of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law in Cambodia,” said EC high representative for foreign affairs and vice president Federica Mogherini.
The EBA arrangement is one arm of the EU’s generalised scheme of preferences (GSP), which allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU, giving them vital access to the EU market and contributing to their growth.