UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht said that Cambodia received a raw deal when it was invited to join the World Trade Organization last September, a news agency reported Thursday.
“When you compare some of the general statements made by the WTO on how they would deal with the least-developed countries, they are much more generous than what has been agreed in the case of Cambodia,” Leuprecht told Agence-France Presse.
“What I fear is that WTO accession will or might have negative effects concerning the enjoyment of human rights,” he added.
His comments come as Nepal is set to become the first least-developed country to join the global trade body today. Cambodia received an invitation to join the WTO last September, but its entry has been delayed because a new government has not been formed and the National Assembly has not ratified the agreement.
Leuprecht also said the terms and conditions Cambodia agreed to were “bad” and questioned whether WTO membership would reduce poverty.
Sous Someth, Cambodia’s ambassador to the WTO, defended the country’s accession agreement.
“In trade negotiations there must be give and take otherwise there is no negotiation,” he told AFP. “You win some, you lose some, and in this particular case I don’t think Cambodia will be able to lose very much.”
“We want to put trade at the center of our strategy for development,” Sous Someth reportedly said.
Keith Rockwell, the WTO’s chief spokesman, called Leuprecht’s comments “rubbish,” AFP reported. Cambodia and 25 other countries hoping to join the WTO realize it is more beneficial to be inside rather than outside the multilateral trading system, Rockwell reportedly said.
In February, the WTO’s General Council agreed to give Cambodia an additional six months to ratify its membership at the government’s request. The deadline for ratification was originally March 31, but is now Sept 30.
In a letter to the General Council in February, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh wrote that the extension was needed because government negotiations have stalled.
“We hope through this extension the political situation would ease and open the way for the quick formation of a new government,” Cham Prasidh wrote.