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Joining APEC seen as likely for Cambodia

SINGAPORE
CAMBODIA will be well-placed to gain Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) membership if a moratorium on new members is allowed to lapse as expected at the ongoing APEC summit in Singapore, sources in Singapore said Thursday.

Among the dozen nations applying to join the trade and investment forum, India and Cambodia are in the strongest position, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. India is in line for acceptance due to the sheer size of its economy, and Cambodia because it already supports open trade and is a member of the World Trade Organisation and ASEAN.

Cambodia also has a coastline open to the Pacific, which other aspiring members such as Mongolia and Laos do not.

APEC, which seeks to liberalise trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, currently has 21 members.

After it was formed in 1989, APEC expanded rapidly before placing a moratorium on new members in 1993. The moratorium, which was originally set to expire in 1996 but has been extended several times, is now set to expire in 2010. It is expected that it will not be renewed in Singapore.

US officials said Cambodia would be a welcome addition because Phnom Penh’s foreign policy supports a more liberal trading system.

Singapore’s senior minister, Goh Chok Tong, will visit Cambodia at the end of this month.

APEC agreed the “Bogor Declaration” in 1994 to create free trade among its developed economies by 2010 and emerging economies by 2020.

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