Asean Still Cambodian Goal

Finance Minister Keat Chhon reiterated Monday Cambo­dia’s determination to join Asean, des­pite the current economic turmoil that has engulfed many countries in the regional grouping.

“Cambodia stands ready to negotiate its participation in all major Asean economic initiatives,” Keat Chhon said at the opening of a two-day workshop on Asean economic cooperation.

Noting a recent speech by Second Prime Minister Hun Sen stating Cambodia’s commitment to join the body, Keat Chhon said the workshop was evidence that the government was serious in preparing for entry.

Cambodia’s entry was postponed by its member countries last year after factional fighting broke out. A senior government adviser, Svay Sitha, was quoted in June as saying some government members were questioning the potential benefits of Asean be­cause of the economic crisis.

But Keat Chhon suggested Monday that Asean countries can fight the economic slowdown more effectively as a group.

“The current situation clearly indicates to us that regional integration is more critical now…than ever before,” Keat Chhon said.

Although it has been almost one year since the region’s currency and stock market problems began, the finance minister said, it is still difficult to assess the impact of the crisis on Cambodia.

While he believes the long-term impact will be minimal, Keat Chhon said the country can ex­pect to see investment from Asean countries “slow appreciably or  stop” for at least two years.

Tourism and local manufacturing also will suffer in the short-term, he said.

Other topics at the Khmer-language workshop, ending today, include foreign direct investment in Asean and implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area.

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