US Urges Cambodia to Form Court for Commercial Disputes

Cambodia will establish a special court for commercial disputes as part of its bid to join the World Trade Organization, Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Sok Siphana said Saturday.

Returning from a third round of talks with the WTO in Geneva, Sok Siphana said Cambodia will have to pass 30 different types of laws to join the organization, which promotes free trade.

While in Geneva, the 10-member Cambodian negotiating team met privately with Japan, Au­s­tralia, the European Union, Can­ada, Taiwan and the US, discussing market size and tariff issues, Sok Siphana said.

The team includes officials from the commerce, economy and agriculture ministries and the Council for the Development of Cambodia, he said.

The US suggested that Cambo­dia set up a commercial court since the current judiciary lacks specialized expertise, the WTO announced earlier this month.

The court will help increase foreign investment in Cambodia, Sok Siphana said. “Before [companies] invest millions of dollars in any country, they will think about whether their money is se­cure or not,” he said. Then he ap­pended a common Cambodian saying: “If we want to fish, the water must be cold.”

The WTO has drafted a final re­port on accession. It should be finalized by April 2003, Sok Si­phana said.

The WTO aims to admit Cam­bodia by September, making it the first “least-developed country” to join since the body was formed in 1995.

As part of joining WTO, Cam­bodia will agree to reduce import taxes on some 6,000 items, Sok Siphana said. That will result in cheaper foreign goods and less smuggling, while joining the WTO will open large markets for Cambodian-made goods.

Still, some items will be exemp­ted. “We are not going to reduce taxes on petroleum and vehicles and agriculture products because they are the main income for the government,” Sok Siphana said.

Smuggling of vehicles and gasoline are major problems, officials acknowledge, and prices for both are much higher than in neighboring countries.


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