Cambodia Says Meetings On For Potential EU Rice Import Complaint

Samples of cooked rice are displayed for testing by food scientists to make sure they fit Egyptian standards, in a research centre affiliated with Egypt's agriculture ministry in Cairo, Egypt, March 25, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce has just confirmed that the government is currently discussing whether or not a complaint against the European Union (EU) is reasonable following the bloc's tariffs on Cambodian rice imports.

According to the Khmer Times, Ministry spokesman Seang Thay revealed that the ministry is in the process of collecting necessary data before making a final decision on the potential complaint. "We are now at the stage of collecting data and concrete information."

While there were earlier reports about the Cambodian government lodging a complaint with the European Court of Justice, Thay said he cannot confirm the information.

Reuters reported that the Cambodian government decided to take the EU rice tariffs to court but Thay said he is unaware of this information. He added that there is no "specific timeframe" on the complaint's submission since the panel is still reviewing information.

On the other hand, Thay said the complaint against the EU will push through if the panel and legal experts conclude that Cambodia has a "good chance of winning." Thay's comments came after the EU imposed tariffs on Cambodian rice earlier this year.

At that time, the European bloc said tariffs were imposed because increasing imports from Cambodia and Burma are hurting local farmers in the eurozone. The move did not sit well with Cambodian farmers and rice traders.

Late last month, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen unveiled a set of schemes that he said could help curb potential losses from the rift with the EU. At that time, Hun Sen said he is "done taking orders" from western countries.

Among Hun Sen's reforms as a means of offsetting negative effects of losing trade deals with the EU include cutting down on transportation fees, slashing "unofficial payments" in the government, and reducing the official number of national holidays in the country to spur efficiency and production.

Amid a widening rift with the EU and other western trade partners, Cambodia decided to embrace China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as part of its efforts in gaining independence from the west.

Over the past years, Cambodia and China's ties have deepened. Top Chinese officials have signaled their desire to help improve the Cambodian economy. The apparent mutual understanding of both sides led to Cambodia becoming one of the 57 founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Economists noted that Cambodian leaders believe the BRI will help drive economic growth in the country. The initiative has already helped address infrastructure deficits. It has also helped provide access to rural transportation.

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