Forty representatives of Cambodia’s business community and workers on Monday called on the European Union (EU) not to withdraw trade preferences for Cambodia, saying that such a withdrawal would adversely affect millions of people.
The call came after the EU said in October last year that Cambodia could lose its special trade access to European markets under the Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme, citing concerns over human rights and labor rights in the country.
EU would take at least 18 months to decide whether to withdraw the EBA preferences for Cambodia or not.
EU is a major trading partner for Cambodia, especially for textiles and footwear sector. As a Least Developed Country, Cambodia has enjoyed exports of all products, except arms and ammunition, to European markets with duty-free for decades.
“The consequences of such a decision will impose serious economic damage on Cambodia,” said a joint letter addressed to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
The letter was jointly signed by Kith Meng, president of Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, Van Sou Ieng, president of Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, and Arnaud Darc, chairman of European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, among other business and union leaders.
It said over the past decades, Cambodia has managed to leverage itself out of humanitarian and economic turmoil to become a world leader of GDP growth, by servicing global markets with the support of multilateral partners and favorable trade preferences.
“However, the withdrawal of this arrangement will jeopardize this progress, by directly harming the livelihood of millions of workers and their families that rely on employment within the garment sector, placing them once again at risk of returning to poverty,” the letter said.
The letter added that the cumulative effect of this decision will threaten the income of another 3 million people, including dependents and service providers from the hospitality, transportation and accommodation sectors.
“We appeal to the European Commission and European member states to continue in its unwavering support of Cambodia’s development by refraining from taking any action that will harm the interests and livelihoods of the country’s people,” the letter said.