Brussels has partially withdrawn tariff-free trading rights from Cambodia in protest against human rights violations in the country — the first time the EU has revoked preferential “Everything But Arms” trade terms created for the world’s poorest countries.
The European Commission on Wednesday confirmed that Cambodia’s EBA rights had been partly suspended, following through on an EU decision from earlier this year. The move means some Cambodian goods such as clothing and footwear products will now face tariffs when they are imported into the EU, as well as sugar.
Brussels estimates that products affected make up one-fifth, or €1bn, of Cambodia’s yearly exports to the EU. Cambodia can still export the goods to the EU but they will be subject to tariffs under World Trade Organization rules.
Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled for more than 35 years, is a test of whether scrapping trade preferences is an effective tool in putting pressure on autocratic governments, or whether it risks harming employees, businesses and the wider economy.
Phil Hogan, Brussels trade commissioner, said the EU needed to see “substantial improvement” in Cambodia’s respect for human rights and labour laws to fully restore EU market access.
“We have provided Cambodia…