Seen by some as a threat to the struggling economies of many Asean nations, China’s entry into the World Trade Organization could mean a boost to Cambodia, a trade official said Thursday.
“We will only benefit from China in the WTO,” said Sok Siphana on his return from Qatar, where on Saturday China was officially voted into the 142-member world trade body. “Cambodia will meet with a great chance to export its agricultural products to a world market, including China.”
China’s WTO accession also insures Cambodia will receive special trade status.
At the Asean summit earlier this month, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji promised that if China was admitted to the WTO, it would give Cambodia, Burma and Laos preferential trade treatment, including lower tariffs, since they are poor. China also proposed a free trade area with the Asean nations, which would be the largest such area in the world.
China’s entry will mean a general lowering of trade barriers, opening the country and its 1.3 billion people to free market forces. China must also cut government subsidies to farmers. That will give other agricultural nations a chance to compete with them.
“I think China will be able to [help] the world economy as a WTO member,” Sok Siphana said, adding that there would be no negative impact on Cambodia.
China has traditionally been a quality producer of agricultural machinery. Its entry into the WTO means that quality equipment at low prices will find its way to Cambodia, Sok Siphana said.
Meanwhile, Cambodian exports such as rice or fish will find a new market. At home, tourism and the service sectors will improve alongside China’s economy, he said.
Cambodia is not a member of the WTO, but was invited to Qatar as an observer. Officials had been hesitant to attend the summit due to security fears, but eventually decided to go.
Cambodia’s own entry into the WTO should be complete by 2003, Sok Siphana said.