THE CAMBODIAN government has dismissed a report by Radio Free Asia saying the European Union was considering suspending its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement with the nation.
A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman dismissed reports that the RFA had obtained a leaked copy of the EU’s confidential report and claimed that RFA had purposely provided false information.
“Its reference to the terms and paragraphs presented as quotations that were supposedly taken from the said report were not accurate,” the spokesman said.
“Such false information creates unnecessary worries among the hundreds of thousands of workers involved, misleads the public and tarnishes the reputation of government officials whom RFA claimed to have leaked the document,” he added.
The Khmer Times said that the EU had submitted last Tuesday to the government its preliminary Report of Findings with regards to its assessment on the EBA trade preferences.
The government is invited to provide its comments within one month.
It is expected that the EU will make a decision by February next year, whether or not the trade preferences will be withdrawn.
RFA had earlier claimed that it had received a leaked copy of the 70-page confidential document which concludes the EU’s nine-month review of Cambodia’s access to the EBA trade agreement, which currently guarantees tariff-free trade on 99 percent of Cambodian goods being exported to the EU.
It claimed that because of human rights and labour rights abuses, the EU has been considering suspending the agreement that in 2018 enabled Cambodian goods worth US$5.8 billion to be exported to the largest trading bloc in the world.
The EU accounts for 17.3 per cent of all of Cambodia’s trade, coming second just behind China, which accounts for 23.8 per cent.
A loss of EBA status could cost Cambodia US$654 million a year and puts at risks the jobs of the 800,000 Cambodians employed in the garment and textile manufacturing sector.
“The report noted ‘further deterioration’ of civil and political rights and only ‘tangible progress’ in land and labour rights,” according to the RFA.
Although RFA’s claims could not be verified, the threat to Cambodia’s economy remains very real and cracks in the government’s resolve appear to be showing as it granted the release on bail of more than 70 political activists associated with former opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
This follows the lifting of the house arrest of opposition figure Kem Sokha earlier this week.
Most of the activists were detained in days leading up to the return of self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Nov 9.
Rainsy was prevented from returning and the Cambodian government had termed his planned return as an attempted coup.