The EU’s Dilemmas Over Trade Access and Human Rights in Asia

Garment workers sew clothes in a factory as they wait for a visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).
Garment workers sew clothes in a factory as they wait for a visit by Prime Minister Hun Sen outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Aug. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

What price should workers in Cambodia and Myanmar, two of the poorest countries in the world, pay because of their governments’ severe violations of human rights? The European Union is currently grappling with this question. Under its Everything But Arms trade preference program, the EU provides duty-free, quota-free market access for all imports, except weapons, from states designated by the United Nations as “least developed countries.” On paper, eligible countries are supposed to respect democracy and human rights; in practice, many do not. In Cambodia, the government of longtime ruler Hun Sen has squelched democracy, while in Myanmar, the military […]

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