PHNOM PENH, Jan 18 (Reuters) - European Union tariffs on rice from Cambodia are a “weapon” against impoverished farmers and will hurt millions of people struggling to escape poverty, Cambodia’s government and ruling party said.
The EU from Friday will impose tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar for the next three years to curb a surge in imports it said had damaged EU producers.
The European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the bloc, will set a duty of 175 euros ($200) per tonne of rice in the first year, dropping to 150 euros in the second and 125 euros in year three.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen said the decision was a discriminatory trade action that would affect millions of poor Cambodians.
“Is this an act of respect of human rights or a violation of human rights?,” CPP spokesman Sok Eysan told reporters. “The EU Commission’s action is a trade discrimination.”
The Ministry of Commerce has called the EU decision a “weapon to kill Cambodian farmers” and against international trade rules.
Cambodia and Myanmar benefit from the EU’s “Everything But Arms” scheme which allows the world’s least developed countries to export most goods to the European Union free of duties.
During its investigation, the Commission found that imports of rice from both countries combined have increased by 89 percent in the past five rice-growing seasons.
The Commission said the investigation had also found that the prices were substantially lower than those in the EU market and had caused serious difficulties for EU rice producers. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; editing by Darren Schuettler)