The European Commission has ramped up trade pressure on Myanmar and Cambodia over rule of law and human rights concerns.
European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said Friday that both Myanmar and Cambodia risked losing preferential access to the EU market under the blocs so-called Everything But Arms arrangement, which permits tariff-free access for all exports except for weapons and ammunition.
“Today, High Representative Federica Mogherini and I have therefore notified Cambodia that we are launching the process for the withdrawal of their Everything But Arms preferences,” Malmström said in a blog post from a ministerial meeting in Austria. “Without clear and evident improvements on the ground, this will lead to the suspending of the trade preferences that they currently enjoy.”
The commissioner said the EU will also send an emergency mission to Myanmar in the coming days to carry out investigations related to human rights.
“There is a clear possibility that a withdrawal [from Everything But Arms] could be the outcome,” Malmström said.
Several EU countries are already considering expanding sanctions against Myanmar in the wake of calls from the United Nations for senior military officials from the country to be investigated for genocide against the Rohingya population.
In Cambodia, the ruling Cambodian Peoples Party led by longstanding Prime Minister Hun Sen won elections in July after he arrested Kem Sokha, the leader of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on accounts of treason. The EUs step, if implemented, would threaten the all-important garment industry.