Phnom Penh (FN), June 14 – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán firmly supported Cambodia in advocating to prevent the temporary withdrawal of the Kingdom’s access to EU's Everything But Arms preferential trade scheme, speaking on 13 June in a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen during his official visit to the Republic of Hungary from 13 to 14 June 2019.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stressed Hungary’s support on Cambodia to maintain its EBA trade scheme. He stated that Hungary does not support the idea of mixing political issues with economic matters, according to Kao Kim Hourn, delegate minister attached to prime minister.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked Hungary for the support it has pledged. Both exchanged views on EU situation following the recent elections. They also expressed interest on EU-ASEAN cooperation.
The European Commission announced on 11 February 2019 to begin the process that could lead to the temporary suspension of Cambodia's preferential access to the EU market under EBA.
Officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service undertook a mission to Cambodia from 3 to 10 June 2019 to address some major issues related to human rights and labor rights in Cambodia. The mission could lead to the temporary withdrawal of Cambodia’s trade preferences, according to the committee’s press release dated June 11.
Following mid-August, the EU will produce a report of its findings and conclusions and that Cambodia will have one month to reply to this report.
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.
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.