Trade Agreement Deadlocked

Opposition parliamentarians on Tuesday reiterated their concerns over Cambodia’s entry into the Asean Free Trade Area , war­ning the country will face big revenue losses as it is forced to re­duce import taxes.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Par­ty lawmaker, said Cambodia will lose about $50 million in revenue annually when it begins tariff reductions in 2003, as required by the AFTA  agreement .

About $150 million are currently generated annually from tariffs. Cambodia would be required to gradually reduce the tariffs it collects until the year 2015, when AFTA eliminates the tariffs altogether.

Son Chhay also said joining AFTA may create many problems for Cambodia because domestic production is not well-developed.

“We don’t have a strong base in our products. How can we compete with other Asean members?” he asked.

“I think when we join AFTA, it is as if a 2-year-old baby tries to run after a man of 20- to 30 years old,” said another opposition lawmaker, Sun Kim Hun.

Secretary of State Ouk Ra Bun defended the country’s entry into AFTA.

“When we enter AFTA, we can gain more confidence from investors and we can attract them to invest here in all fields,” he said.

The National Assembly spent about 90 minutes debating the trade agreement, but not enough legislators stayed for a quorum to be reached, forcing an indefinite delay on any action.

Assembly Speaker Heng Samrin lambasted some lawmakers for their lack of discipline, noting they showed up and then quickly left.







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