The Cambodian government called the European Commission’s decision to partially withdraw the Asian country from a preferential commercial program because of its “systematic violation of human rights” as “unfair.”
Brussels announced on Wednesday that it will restrict access to “selected products” of clothing and footwear and all travel items and sugar that have so far benefited from preferential rates through the All but Arms (EBA) program.
The measure, which will enter into force on August 12, 2020 unless the European Parliament objects, will affect one fifth of Cambodian exports to the EU, the main market in the Asian country, which amounts to about 1,000 million euros a year.
The Cambodian government regretted the decision and denounced the “double yardstick” of the EU in its preferential practices in relation to other trading partners.
“The application of the concept of ‘systematic violation’, caused by many misunderstandings and poor perceptions about the reality of Cambodia, has been arbitrary,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued last night.
“Despite being based on EU values and principles on democracy and human rights, the decision is motivated by political reasons and lacks objectivity and impartiality,” the note added.
Brussels began the process a year ago to decide whether to withdraw Cambodia from the EBA, which guarantees duty-free access to the European market from any export, except armament.
The measure was taken after the July 2018 elections, which were held after a vast judicial campaign against the opposition, media and activists, conducted at the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in office since 1985.
Human rights advocacy groups blamed Hun Sen for the decision and called on the president to take measures to improve the “lousy” human and labor rights situation, including the end of the illegalization of the main opposition party.
“Hun Sen can achieve the restoration of these preferences and show that he cares about Cambodian workers by ending his harassment of labor rights, political opposition and fundamental freedoms,” said Human Rights Watch’s director for Asia, Brad Adams , it’s a statement.