EuroCham warns that EU sanctions could backfire

'It would negatively impact the liberal view that the EU uses its material power for the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world'


PHNOM PENH -- The European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia is warning that the EU’s withdrawal of Everything But Arms (EBA) trade preferences for Cambodia could backfire.


"The imposition of trade sanctions may undermine the EU’s cooperation objective of poverty reduction in a least developed country,” a submission warns.


The chamber says withdrawing the preferences would not only affect targeted sectors.


“A wider impact is likely to be seen due to a domino effect,” it says. “It would negatively impact actors, in particular vulnerable communities, that are not responsible for human rights abuses. 


‘Ethical concern’


“This raises an ethical concern that has been the object of a public debate.” 


The chamber also warns that withdrawing EBA could undermine not only the Cambodian government’s image but also the EU’s image as a “force for good” in the world. 


"It would negatively impact the liberal view that the EU uses its material power for the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.”


The chamber notes that the EU’s decision to impose tariffs on Sri Lanka “has been criticised for endangering people’s livelihoods.” 


‘Security risks’

“In addition, any democratisation process entails specific security risks and in Cambodia, the EBA issue has not favoured a democratic dialogue between parties, but instead has been used in a political game characterised by a high degree of enmity that could induce growing societal polarisation.”


Statistically, the chamber says, the efficiency of such measures is “highly controversial.”


The EU’s policy will therefore be “evaluated on its results and not its intentions.”


"The Government has made some concessions, most significantly in the labour rights areas, but in terms of political freedom more efforts are needed,” the chamber says.  


Citing human rights concerns, the EU started the process of withdrawing EBA trade preferences for Cambodia in February.


“The relations between the EU and Cambodia have been considerably damaged, following the EU’s response,” the chamber concludes. 

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