Cambodia received approval to join the World Trade Organization Thursday, culminating four years of negotiations to join the global trade body.
Speaking in Cancun, Mexico, to WTO trade ministers, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh criticized member nations for making Cambodia pay “a high price” for membership.
“We believe the package of concessions and commitments that we have to accept certainly goes far beyond what is commensurate with the level of development of a least-developed country like Cambodia,” he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse.
The minister’s statements reflect the consensus of a number of WTO critics, including the authors of an Oxfam report noting the many trade concessions Cambodia made to developed nations during the accession process.
In Phnom Penh Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen lauded the announcement and dismissed arguments opposing WTO membership.
“We concluded that the benefits of joining the WTO would outweigh the costs,” Hun Sen said.
At the Commerce Ministry, Secretary of State Khek Ravy called WTO membership a “very important step,” but said “difficult challenges” remain. The government must pass 46 more laws by 2006 to comply with WTO rules.
“Realistically, it will take 5 to 7 years to implement these laws,” Khek Ravy said.
The National Assembly must approve the membership within six months. Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Keo Remy said he expects the Assembly to approve membership, though many lawmakers like himself have misgivings.
“My concern is that we are not ready to compete with other nations,” he said Friday. “The price of telephones, electricity and transportation are too high here. The quality of goods produced here is low—most do not meet international standards.”
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana and The Associated Press)