China’s expected entry into the World Trade Organization will ensure Cambodia special trade status with the regional giant, allowing it to sell goods to Chinese markets at reduced import fees, government spokesman Chem Widhya said Wednesday.
Under an Asean-China free- trade agreement proposed at this week’s Asean summit in Brunei in anticipation of China’s WTO membership, Cambodia would be one of the region’s poorer countries that would enjoy lower tariffs in order to allow them to compete economically with their more- developed neighbors.
Chem Widhya called the free-trade area “a good opportunity for Asean countries to import goods.
“China has the opportunity to open its huge market to the Asean countries,” he said.
The proposed free-trade area would be the biggest in the world, and the leaders said they hope to make it a reality within 10 years.
Some Asean members voiced concerns that the agreement with China would flood their countries with cheap Chinese imports, undercutting locally produced goods and hurting their economies.
But Chem Widhya said this was not a problem for Cambodia, which has a relatively poor economy and few market options.
“We are not concerned because we want the jobs it will create” by bringing Chinese tourists and investors to Cambodia, Chem Widhya said.
Summit participants also talked about the planned railroad that would cross the region from Singapore to China, Chem Widhya said. Two new stretches of rail need to be built in Cambodia: A 48-km line from Poipet to Sisophon, which would cost an estimated $55 million, and a 225-km line from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh city via the Vietnamese border town of Lok Ninh, he said.
Asean has asked China, South Korea and Japan to contribute to the cost of the railroad, Chem Widhya said. In addition, South Korea pledged $20 million to Cambodia in aid.
for human resources, health, information technology and the environment, he said.