Minister Says Asean a ‘Must’

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Monday that Cambodia should not delay its expected admission to Asean, and predicted entry into the regional grouping in December. 

“It is a must. We should prepare ourselves very well to join Asean,” Keat Chhon said at a conference to mark the publication of two new books about Asean.

He had been asked if a new government would reconsider membership in Asean.

“I cannot look into the crystal ball because it depends on the new government,” Keat Chhon said, in reference to next month’s scheduled elections. But he said the government is continuing to prepare the policies and mechanisms needed to join the regional trade group, which calls for lower trade tariffs among its nine current members.

“If they are wise,” he said of the next government’s leaders, “they should consider the same thing.”

His remarks come two weeks after a senior government adviser, Svay Sitha, was quoted as saying some members of government were questioning the potential benefits of Asean because of the regional economic crisis.

Keat Chhon acknowledged after Monday’s book launch that lowered tariffs could initially cause some economic pain for Cambodia, but would be of long-term benefit.

The new books introduced Monday were published by the Cambodian Institute for Coop­eration and Peace.

“Acceleration of AFTA and Its Implications for Cambodia,” discussing the Asean Free Trade Agreement, co-authored by Keat Chhon and Aun Porn Moniroth, a senior government economist, is published in both Khmer and English. “Asean: A to Z—A Lex­icon of Asean-Related Term­i­nology” is a UNDP-sponsored book in Khmer.

Both are available from the Institute and selected bookstores.

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