Panel: Cambodia’s Fitness To Join WTO Under Review

A team of experts from six world organizations arrived in Cambodia last week to assess the country’s ability to join the World Trade Organ­ization.

The task force includes re­search­ers from the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Development Program, the UN Commission on Trade and Development and the International Trade Center.

Bankrolled by a “trust fund” provided by donors, with the money managed by the World Bank, the team will  research Cambodia’s strengths and weaknesses in its approaches to the world economy, in advance of any possible entrance into the WTO, said Sandy Cuthbertson, of the Center for International Economics.

“One of the important things is that it’s six agencies working together to help countries integrate into the world trade process. We’re there as a technical resource for the government to take advantage of,” Cuth­bertson said.

The team arrived after Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh requested technical assistance from donors at the Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo in June “to have a broader picture of the problem,” Cham Prasidh said. The team will hopefully find “measures to improve the situation…for integration into the world trade system,” he said.

The team will stay three weeks, after which it will issue a report to the government, with recommendations for improving infrastructure and trade regulations.

World Bank representative Hiau Looi Kee will design a survey of trading companies to find out what problems they have importing or exporting goods into the country. Geoff Wright, an independent development consultant, will investigate ports and customs offices to find ways to improve trade.

Cambodia is one of three pilot countries to receive such integrated framework attention. “This is a pro-poor trade strategy,” Cuth­bertson said.

The team will identify gaps in the country’s economic system and “look for ways for donors to contribute to that.”


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