The European Union’s trade minister, Pascal Lamy, said Monday the EU was fully committed to helping “fast track” Cambodia for membership into the World Trade Organization.
The EU would use its weight and influence in Geneva to help bring Cambodia into the WTO fold as quickly as possible, Lamy said, declining to give a specific date for entry.
“These are negotiations,” so such dates are impossible to predict, he said.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, officially opened a delegation in Cambodia during the visit by Lamy, who said this was “a clear sign that we are here for the long term.”
“The EU sees this country as an investment in the future and for the future,” Lamy said.
Lamy was here on his first official visit as part of a tour of Southeast Asia. Lamy also visited Singapore and Indonesia.
WTO accession was important for Cambodia for a number of reasons, Lamy said.
The most important benefit, he said, was “locking in a rules-based environment for business and investment in this country. Second, providing Cambodia with the sort of security which a member of WTO gets…notably, very big trading partners.”
The EU plans to provide technical assistance to Cambodia in its bid for WTO membership, as well as finding ways for Cambodia to better exploit the export potential already extended by the EU, Lamy said. Under trade deals with the EU, Cambodia has the potential to ship duty-free and quota-free any goods, including garments, except weapons.
The bulk of the $200 million in exports Cambodia sends to EU buyers has been garments, but Cambodia needs to find ways for agricultural production to meet international standards of quality, Lamy said following a day of trade talks with Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh and visits to King Norodom Sihanouk and Prime Minister Hun Sen.
So far, Lamy said, trade in Cambodia has been “too heavily balanced in the direction of textiles and footwear.”