Lawyer and government adviser Sok Siphana (l), who accompanied Prime Minister Hun Sen to the G-20 Summit last week in Los Cabos, Mexico, meets US President Barack Obama. Photograph: supplied
While the financial problems of Europe created a worried mood for the Group of 20 leaders at Los Cabos, Mexico, last week, a bright spot was Prime Minister Hun Sen’s representation of Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship, according to lawyer and government adviser Sok Siphana, who accompanied the Cambodian delegation.
Sok Siphana took time yesterday to explain what happened at the G-20 summit, including the prime minister’s performance, as well as encounters with world leaders.
“The mood of the summit was the worry about the euro zone. They discussed how the G-20 nations could come up with additional resources to protect it from future financial risks,” Sok Siphana said.
During a session to pledge resources to the International Monetary Fund, more than $120 billion was pledged, mostly from developing countries, including China, which pledged $43 billion.
“Nobody wants to see the contagion of the crisis. Having an IMF with the adequate resources will help protect the world economy.”
In attendance along with US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and the leaders of 18 other developed countries were Director General Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.
Sok Siphana said the worried feeling extended to China, a country where export growth dropped to only seven per cent as opposed to 20 per cent last year.
“Even China is worried because their traditional markets in Europe are suffering,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen was joined on a charter flight from Phnom Penh that included Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, CDC Secretary General Sok Chenda, Dr Aun Porn Moniroth, who is a minister attached to the prime minister’s office and Sok Siphana.
The aircraft stopped in Japan and Honolulu, Hawaii, enroute to Los Cabos, Mexico, for the summit, attended by the delegates June 18 and 19 and returned to Cambodia on June 21.
Sok Siphana said Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the G-20 members, particularly the oil producing countries, to consider the impact of high oil prices on food security for smaller or less-developed countries.
The Cambodian prime minister also pushed for resumption of the Doha Development Round or Doha Development Agenda (DDA), which is the current trade-negotiation round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which commenced in November 2001 and has an objective to lower trade barriers around the world, which will help facilitate the increase of global trade.
“Our prime minister pushed for resumption of the Doha negotiation because for Cambodia it is important. We believe that international trade is a driver of growth. Cambodia being such an open economy, we depend on trade and investment. Only through trade and openness can we sustain our economic growth,” Sok Siphana said.
Sok Siphana sat behind Prime Minister Hun Sen during the conversations.
“The Prime Minister was intervening like all the other leaders in the discussion.”
WTO’s Pascal Lamy expressed concern about the rise of protectionism and the impact that might have on less developed countries like Cambodia.
“My impression was that Pascal Lamy was very concerned about the rise of protectionism, and he felt the difficulties of pushing the Doha Round to conclusion. At the same time, he was trying to get something going that would benefit both the developing and the developed world. More importantly for least-developed countries, the area of trade facilitation is low hanging fruit, unlike difficult issues such as agriculture subsidies,” Sok Siphana said.
“Pascal Lamy is pushing for issues that help least developed countries, how to streamline procedures to enter WTO, without having big countries extracting too much concessions. Laos is not in there yet, but they will be next year. We should abandon all barriers to trade because they are not helping the world economic recovery,” Sok Siphana said.
“The prime minister was very well received with as much respect as any other leader. This is the highest point so far in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s political career on the global scene. This is a moment of pride for Cambodia and for the region,” he said.
“What I saw was not just a Cambodian prime minister, but somebody who has a much larger vision and perspective than just being the leader of a small country with a population of 14 million. Our prime minister was tackling issues of a regional nature with ease and comfort and confidence. He was assertive, but not only on behalf of Cambodia, but on behalf of ASEAN,” Sok Siphana said.
One of the reasons the G-20 leaders paid so much attention to the Cambodian delegation and what Sok Siphana calls “ASEAN+3” which is ASEAN including China, Japan and South Korea, was the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM), which came about as a result of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
In his speech to the G-20 leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the ASEAN economies were expected to expand moderately by 5.2 per cent during 2012 and that the 617 million people who lived in the ASEAN countries had a total GDP of $3.5 trillion.
When Sok Siphana went up to meet American President Barack Obama, he said:
“My son will never forgive me if I can’t bring a picture of us back to Cambodia.”
To which President Obama replied: “Oh no, he’s your son, you raised him, and he will still love you.”
“Obama was very humble and very respectful of culture. The way he shakes your hand and the way he dealt with President Hu Jintao from China. You could feel a sense of powerful but humble friendship, but courteous. You can be the most powerful man on this planet and still not be arrogant. I like him.”
Sok Siphana also met Vladimir Putin of Russia: “He seemed like a tough guy, very Spartan when he speaks, very confident. He also met German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “She was friendly. We stayed in the same hotel and bumped into each other during breakfast.”
Sok Siphana said Prime Minister Hun Sen cracked jokes about the European football games and chatted in English with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen invited Christine Legarde of the IMF and the president of the EU Commission to attend the ASEAN global dialogue in November.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]