Conscience over coercion: The Asian Vision Institute calls on the European Union to find a middle ground in its deliberations regarding the "Ever

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Oct. 10, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - Officials from the European Commission and the European External Action Service are assessing Cambodia's standing in the Everything But Arms (EBA) deal. The EBA allows Cambodia to export products other than weapons to the EU at zero tariff and quota free.

Officials in Brussels say the EU is committed to working with Cambodian authorities to find a middle ground. The Asian Vision Institute (AVI), in its mission to promote inclusive and sustainable societies, wholeheartedly supports the EU's commitment to finding a positive outcome.

Cambodia is home to one of the younger work forces in the world. Some 800,000 women and men work in the garment, footwear and luggage industries. Garment export contributes to about 40% of Cambodia's GDP. The EU is the largest market for Cambodian textile products, accounting for about 46%.

If the EBA is revoked, some 250,000 workers are expected to be out of a job. Manufacturers speak of making do and of improving productivity in the absence of the tariff deal, but they have little or no room to maneuver.

Without the EBA deal, it is estimated that European retail prices for goods made in Cambodia will rise by about 12 percent. There has long been a mutually beneficial relationship between Cambodia and the EU.

The government of Cambodia says its sovereignty will not be compromised in exchange for aid or preferential treatment. The EU, for its part, seeks to be accountable to its constituents as it strives to uphold the values it holds dear. The lines are clearly drawn and somewhere between the two lies room for tolerance, for flexibility and for the ingenuity that have allowed the EBA to evolve and to lift millions from poverty. Cambodia is grateful for the contribution made by the EU in poverty reduction.

In this regard, the Asian Vision Institute urges the EU to take an objective, holistic and humanitarian approach to its deliberations. A revocation will affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers and their families and the collateral damage on the economy is incalculable. At the very least, a withdrawal of the EBA will derail Cambodia's efforts to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 - goals which the EU has pledged to support, by assisting nations that embrace them.

Cambodia, as a bridging state in Southeast Asia, wishes to see a more active role and engagement of the EU in the region. Moreover, amidst rising uncertainties stemming from unilateralism and protectionism, Cambodia and the EU are compelled to cooperate closely to strengthen an open, inclusive, and rules-based multilateral system, particularly to enhance an ASEAN-EU partnership.

The Asian Vision Institute (AVI) [] is an independent think tank based in Cambodia.

Media Contact: Dr Chheng Kimlong Director of the Centre for Governance Innovation and Democracy, AVI Phone: +855-6121-1800; Email: []

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