Cambodian workers will have to strive to increase their productivity if the country is to compete with regional and international producers in the face of increased globalization, the finance minister said Thursday.
In closing remarks of a public forum held on Cambodia’s quest for World Trade Organization accession, Keat Chhon said that increased skills training would not only make workers more productive, but it would give them the ability to work in diverse sectors.
“We have to improve the productivity,” he said, while also encouraging Cambodians to focus on self-improvement.
“There is nothing more important than doing by yourself,” Keat Chhon told a group of students, diplomats and economic leaders. “You have to work hard yourself.”
The public forum, co-sponsored by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation, was the first of its kind, exploring the risks and rewards of Cambodia’s potential membership into the world body.
Most speakers at the conference agreed that Cambodia has no choice but to join the organization, or suffer economic stagnation and isolation. But speakers also cautioned WTO membership doesn’t automatically mean economic success for the country and warned the impact could be negative on Cambodian laborers.
The WTO is not a formula “to solve Cambodia’s problems,” said Kao Kim Hourn, executive director for the CICP. It is merely a formula to boost development.
However, he said, accession would put Cambodia on the “world map” and force changes that would make investment more transparent and less corrupt. WTO membership would also be a signal to investors that the proper legal framework for fair competition was in place.
“From the perspective of foreign investors, I see accession to WTO to be a very positive thing,” said Martin Desautels, an adviser to the Ministry of Commerce and a lawyer who represents investors across Southeast Asia. Accession would “turn the eyes of foreign investors toward Cambodia” and has the potential to start a trend, he said.
(Additional reporting by Richard Sine)