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EU eyes trade action over rights abuses in Cambodia

European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 24, 2019. (Reuters photo)

BRUSSELS: The European Union is launching action that could see it suspend Cambodia's preferential access to the EU market over the deterioration of human rights and the rule of law in the country.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday "there are severe deficiencies when it comes to human rights and labour rights in Cambodia that the government needs to tackle if it wants to keep its country's privileged access to our market."

“Today’s move is neither a final decision nor the end of the process; but the clock is now officially ticking and we need to see real action soon,” the commissioner said in an emailed statement.

The move is allowed under the "everything but arms'' arrangement the EU has with developing countries. It grants duty-free and quota-free access to the European market for things other than weapons.

The commission is starting six months of intensive monitoring and will report on its findings. It could decide in one year to withdraw Cambodia's trade preferences.

The commission on Jan 29 won the green light from EU national governments to initiate the process for suspending the bloc’s trade preferences for Cambodia.

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