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Cambodia calls EU tariff threat 'extreme injustice'

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodia expressed its indignation on Thursday toward the European Union‘s notice last week that it had begun a process to temporarily withdraw a preferential trade agreement with Cambodia over human rights concerns.

"The Cambodian Government can only take this decision as an extreme injustice when the EU blatantly disregards the considerable progress made by the country," Cambodia‘s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement dated Wednesday but released Thursday. 

Cambodia was notified last week that the European Commission had launched the procedure for withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, which allows Cambodia duty-free and quota-free access to European markets for all exports except weapons.

Cambodia‘s exports to the EU, mostly textiles, footwear and agricultural products, were worth about 5.8 billion dollars last year. 

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Friday cited violations of freedom of expression, labour rights and freedom of association, and a July election "marked by harassment and intimidation" and restrictions on political rights.

The ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen won all 125 parliamentary seats following the outlawing of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) by court order and the jailing of its leader last year.

CNRP president Kem Sokha remains under de facto house arrest on widely decried treason charges, which he denies.

The ministry said the EU‘s decision was based on a "political motivation" and risked negating 20 years of development efforts that had pulled millions of people out of poverty. The nation‘s garment sector reportedly employs about 800,000 workers.

Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann and the EU delegation in Cambodia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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