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European trade threats risk pushing Cambodia closer to China

Beijing offers financial backing under framework of noninterference

| Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, pictured at the ASEM leaders summit in Brussels in October 2018: external pressure is unlikely to transform the mindset of those in power.   © Reuters

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's authoritarian government is coming under increasing pressure from the European Union to revitalize the country's floundering democracy or face trade restrictions. But the EU should think again. Its threats are unlikely to work, and risk pushing Cambodia deeper into the arms of China.

The issue is urgent. Hun Sen's government has less than a month to respond to an EU report concluding that Cambodia should lose the trade privileges it enjoys under the bloc's Everything But Arms trade program because of a "deterioration" in the political situation since a review was launched in February. The EU will announce its final decision in February 2020.

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