Uganda Signs Free-Trade Pact

Cambodia and Uganda, two of the world’s poorest nations, have signed a trade agreement they say could set an example for other developing nations.

Min­ister of Commerce Cham Prasidh and his Ugandan counterpart Abel Rweudeire signed the agreement Thursday to set up a framework for free trade between the two countries.

It is the first step in what both ministers are calling the African-Asian Alliance, which they say will work on the principles of trade liberalization that developed countries follow with one another.

Cambodia has stated it would like to join the World Trade Organization by next year. It is also working toward complying with the requirements of the Asean Free Trade Area.

“We cooperate with rich countries to export without paying tariffs, why don’t we do it with poor countries?” Cham Prasidh said. Cambodia and Uganda can take advantage of one another’s “lower standards” in trade, he said.

The nations are putting together “complementary lists” of goods they can exchange, Rweudeire said. “We are a developing country—we must share our experiences on trade with each other. What is it Cambodia needs and how can we provide it.”

For instance, Cambodia’s leading export, garments, requires massive cotton imports; cotton is Uganda’s leading export.

The signing ceremony came at the end of a four-day visit by Rweudeire and some leaders of Ugandan industry. It was prompted by Cambodia’s success in stabilizing its government and its economy, Rweudeire said. “The stability the prime minister [Hun Sen] has brought has set an example for us. Certainly, you have set an example for us,” Rweudeire told Cham Prasidh. What most impressed the Ugandans was that Cambodia was able to produce $1 billion in exports. Uganda’s exports are half that. “We would like to add value to these goods,” Rweudeire said.


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