Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the European Union not to suspend Cambodia from a preferential trading scheme during a meeting between European and Asian business leaders.
The Cambodian prime minister made the comments during the ASEAN-Europe Business council meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
The EU is considering suspending Cambodia from its Everything But Arms (EBA) trading regime, which grants Cambodia tariff-free access to European markets, over violations of human rights and anti-democratic practices.
Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook page that if the EU removes Cambodia from the scheme it would be abandoning its hard work in Cambodia. “So let’s not let the EU decide what is going to be done and listen to the views of the European business community,” he wrote.
He added that if Cambodia was withdrawn from the scheme it would not punish EU investors.
Martin Hayes, the head of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, was quoted as saying that the removal of Cambodia from the scheme would negatively affect EU businesses.
Hun Sen is due to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting this week on the invitation of Donald Tusk, the president of the Council of Europe.
Supporters of Hun Sen gathered in Brussels this week to urge the EU not to remove Cambodia from the EBA scheme.
Top Setha, one of the pro-Hun Sen demonstrators from Germany, said: "If the EU puts pressure on Cambodia, the pressure will not only be on the Cambodian leadership, it's all about the Cambodian people."
Close to one million workers rely on textile exports from Cambodia, a large portion of which are destined for EU markets. Industry representatives have raised concerns that the move could make Cambodia less competitive and drive businesses away.