Phnom Penh (FN), March 20 - During a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn and EU delegations led by Paola Pampaloni, Asia and Pacific Regional Deputy Managing Director, both sides committed to maintaining Everything But Arms trade scheme in Cambodia, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesman Ket Sophann on Wednesday.

"Today's discussion is about commitment to continue EBA scheme from both parties," said Ket Sophann.

During the meeting, H.E. Prak Sokhonn told the EU delegation that the Cambodian Government pledged to implement the measures raised in the Government's statement on 3 December 2018.

The Royal Government of Cambodia released a statement on further steps to strengthen democracy and political space, according to foreign affairs ministry’s press release dated early December 2018.

"The Royal Government always cherishes promotion of freedom of press and freedom of expression in accordance with the Constitution and laws in force. Previously, there were complaints that freedom of press has been restricted, particularly regarding The Cambodia Daily, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. For these cases, here are the facts: The Cambodia Daily shut down its publication on its own due to its failure to fulfill tax obligations in accordance with the Law on Taxation. In the event that such liabilities are legally met, the newspaper can resume its operation. The closure of Radio Free Asia' and Voice of America' representative offices was self-initiated. The two radio stations are free to reopen their offices in Cambodia,” according to the statement.

At the same time, the European Union announced that they are delighted to assist and develop Cambodia over the past 25 years, contributing to the development of Cambodia with the Royal Government.

EBA is one of the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which allows vulnerable developing countries to pay fewer or no duties on exports to the EU, giving them vital access to the EU market and contributing to their growth. The EBA scheme unilaterally grants duty-free and quota-free access to the European Union for all products (except arms and ammunition) for the world's Least Developed Countries, as defined by the United Nations.

The GSP Regulation provides that trade preferences may be suspended in case of "serious and systematic violation of principles" laid down in the human rights and labour rights Conventions listed in Annex VIII of the Regulation.

EBA aims to assist developing countries in their efforts to reduce poverty, promote good governance, and support sustainable development by helping them to generate additional revenue through international trade.

Cambodia is the second largest user of EBA preferences, behind only Bangladesh. Exports of textiles and footwear, prepared foodstuffs and vegetable products (rice) and bicycles represented 97% of Cambodia's overall exports to the EU in 2018. Likewise, the EU is Cambodia's largest trading partner, accounting for 45% of Cambodian exports in 2018. Exports to the EU single market reached €4.9 billion in 2018 – almost double the €2.5 billion recorded in 2013, according to the EU Commission’s fact sheet.