Lawmakers Return to National Assembly

Ratifies Free Trade Agreement Between Asean, Australia and New Zealand

Returning to the National Assembly after a three-month hiatus, parliamentarians voted unanimously yesterday to ratify a free-trade agreement between Asean, Australia and New Zealand.

All 93 lawmakers in attendance voted in support of the free-trade agreement, which will open trade barriers and lower import and export taxes between Asean members and the two countries.

SRP lawmakers Mu Sochua and Yim Sovann, the only parliamentarians to comment on the ratification during yesterday’s session, said they supported the treaty.

“On behalf of the SRP members, I would like to completely support this treaty because these two countries are democratic countries,” Mr Sovann, the party spokesman, said.

“I want Cambodia to have such relations with other good countries that could provide an opportunity for Cambodia to build up its reputation in the world,” he added.

Mr Sovann also called on the government to drop tax rates on imported petrol in order to reduce the country’s energy costs.

Kem Sithan, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, told the Assembly that Cambodia is the seventh of the 11 Asean members to ratify the treaty.

He added that Cambodia has ratified similar treaties between Asean and China, Japan and Korea.

The country hopes to increase agriculture trade with New Zealand, Mr Sithan said, pointing to the success Cambodia has had boosting the sector’s trade with the European Union.

“Our income from exporting rice to Europe reached $15 million, and we hope it will increase more,” he said.

“We have not only exported rice, but have exported other products such as cashew nuts and cassava flour,” he added.

According to the Australian government’s website, Asean, Australia and New Zealand concluded free-trade negotiations on Aug 28, 2008, in Singapore.

Australian Minister for Trade Simon Crean at the time said that Australia stood to gain considerably from the trade agreement.

 

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