• In March, the EU raised concerns about declining democratic and human rights, and the rule of law in Cambodia in the run-up to the general election at the end of July, and ordered that monitoring of the problems be stepped up.
  • Cambodia's Government has now dispatched a diplomatic team to the EU to stop the bloc from removing it from the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade programme.
At present, Cambodian garment exporters enjoy duty-free access to the EU under Everything But Arms (EBA) preferences

At present, Cambodian garment exporters enjoy duty-free access to the EU under Everything But Arms (EBA) preferences

Cambodia's Foreign Ministry has dispatched a diplomatic team to the European Union in a bid to stop the EU removing the country from the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade programme.

The delegation, instructed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and led by Sok Siphana, an adviser to the government, is looking to "pursue and nurture" constructive dialogue with the EU and bring clarification to a "list of issues" sent by the UN in April.

At present, Cambodian garment exporters enjoy duty-free access to the EU under Everything But Arms (EBA) preferences made available to least developed countries. But these trade preferences can be temporarily withdrawn in case of serious and systematic violations laid down in a list of fundamental human rights and labour right conventions in accordance with the provisions of the EU GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) regulation.

In March, the EU raised concerns about declining democratic and human rights, and the rule of law in Cambodia in the run-up to the general election at the end of July, and ordered that monitoring of the problems be stepped up.

In a statement issued late last week, Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was dispatching the delegation in order to "provide clarification about the truth in Cambodia."

In accompanying notes, the Government says the EU communication ignores a January report from the International Labour Organization's Better Factories Cambodia programme, which underlines that "compliance in the garment industry with working conditions regulations has improved substantially in the last four years."

"Driven by the spirit of transparency and accountability, this government mission aims to bring the necessary updates on the latest development in the situation of Cambodia in areas pertinent to the scope of this 'Enhanced Engagement' exercise," it said.

The Cambodian government acknowledges that challenges remain to be tackled before the country can benefit from a "peaceful and respectful democracy cherished by all" – and these would not be helped by economic sanctions.

"To suspend the EBA on Cambodia, while such similar sanctions were not applied to countries where there is no freedom of the press, where massacres took place in total impunity, where repression is the daily happening of government, would be tantamount once again to inflicting on Cambodia another terrible injustice."