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Punishing Cambodia is going to backfire on EU

Removing tariff-free access will drive Phnom Penh toward Beijing's orbit

| Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos
Hun Sen is adamant that Cambodia is not going to bow to European demands. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

In taking the drastic step of suspending Cambodia's tariff-free access to EU markets last week, the European Commission hoped it would incentivize Phnom Penh to repair human rights violations and improve its governance. But the move is much more likely to backfire, pushing Cambodia away from Europe and toward China.

In place since 2001, the Everything but Arms scheme, or EBA, grants the world's least developed countries zero-tariff and quota-free access to the EU's single market for almost all exports.

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