Officials from the European Commission and foreign service have begun a fact-finding mission in Cambodia to assess the country’s access to an EU preferential trading scheme.
The visit, which concludes on Wednesday, aims to determine whether the government’s crackdown against the opposition and civil society should prompt Cambodia’s expulsion from the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.
Under EBA, Cambodian goods have access to the EU market -- a vital destination for Cambodian garments -- with preferential tariff arrangements.
Federica Mogherini, chief of EU foreign policy, said in a letter about the visit that it was “a positive step to evaluate if the commitments included in the EBA are being fulfilled and we hope that this will be a practice to follow in the other existent agreements of this sort.”
“As parliamentarians, we are deeply worried about the political developments and the continuous repression of media and civil society in the country. We believe that there is no legitimacy in an electoral process where the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded, and we respectfully expect your statements in this regard to take these worrisome circumstances into account,” the letter continued.
The EU has already withdrawn its direct support for the National Election Committee and expects staff to abstain from election monitoring activities.
Officials from the Cambodian commerce ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.
George Edgar, EU ambassador to Cambodia, confirmed the timing and motive of the visit.
Sok Eysan, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party senator, and party spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Cambodia recently dispatched its own negotiators to Brussels to lobby officials there not to suspend Cambodia’s membership of the scheme.