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24 Jul 2012

Human rights impact assessment of the EU Everything But Arms initiative in Cambodia – includes EU response

Everything But Arms (EBA) is a trade initiative of the European Union (EU) adopted in 2001 to give least developed countries (LDCs) full duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for exports other than arms and armaments. The EU considers it a global initiative to help LDCs integrate further into the global economy.

In September 2013, NGOs Equitable Cambodia and Inclusive Development International, in conjunction with the Hands Off the Land Alliance, released a report assessing the human rights impacts of the EBA trade scheme on Cambodia, focusing on the sugar industry. The report, “Bittersweet Harvest: A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the European Union‘s Everything But Arms Initiative in Cambodia”, finds that, in the absence of effective human rights safeguards, the EU’s policy of granting preferential tariffs to spur investment in LDCs carries risks of negative human rights impacts.  It finds these risks have materialised in forced evictions and land seizures in Cambodia.  The report recommends that the EU conduct due diligence on exporters seeking to benefit from trade preferences to ensure that they uphold human rights standards; and that EBA be modified so the EU may blacklist companies that violate international norms.  The press release for the report's launch is here.

In November 2013, 16 NGOs sent a letter to EU Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht citing the "Bittersweet Harvest" report, and asking for an investigation into human rights abuses associated with products exported to the EU under the EBA initiative.

Earlier in July, Heinrich Böll Stiftung published an article raising similar concerns.

EU response

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited the EU to respond to these items.
Full response available here.

Company responses

The following are company comments on some of the human rights allegations in the report:

[PDF] Khon Kaen Sugar Industry – response sent to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[DOC] Mitr Phol Sugar – response sent to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Phnom Penh Sugar - comment available on the company website

T&L Sugars/American Sugar Refining - publicly available comment

[DOC] Ve Wong - declined to comment this time; response sent to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in 2012 on similar issues linked

Company Responses

Khon Kaen Sugar View Response