Cambodia exported about $3 billion worth of goods to the EU in the first nine months of last year, according to Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Borith’s remarks came at the ministry’s annual meeting and were in response to a report released on Monday by the European Union’s foreign affairs ministers, which warned the Cambodian government of “specific targeted measures” and called for enhanced monitoring of Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement over the country’s recent political crackdown.
Cambodia’s status under EBA grants the country tariff-free access to the EU market, which is traditionally the Kindgom’s largest market for exports. A threat to the EBA agreement could imperil Cambodia’s industrial sector, which is comprised mostly of garment factories and which employs about 850,000 people.
A comprehensive look at Cambodia’s customs data from last year is not available. Commerce Ministry officials have repeatedly told The Post that the Ministry and Economy and Finance’s Customs Department has only provided data for the first 3 months of last year, while customs officials could not be reached for comment.
Businesses and academics have complained that the lack of timely customs data hinders their work and research, and top government officials have also acknowledged the slow pace remains a problem. Cambodia has struggled with widespread illicit trade that goes unrecorded by the Customs Department, particularly in its timber, citric acid, beef and sand sectors.
This article was originally published in the Phnom Penh Post.