WTO chief Pascal Lamy praises Cambodia's progress in economic reforms
as leaders from world's poorest countries call for more trade
A man carries rice in Phnom Penh. Ministers in Siem Reap pressed for open markets.
CAMBODIA is "ahead of the curve" in fulfilling the requirements of its World Trade Organisation membership and has made strong progress in economic reforms, WTO chief Pascal Lamy said in an interview with the Post Thursday.
The comments were made following a meeting of trade officials from 49 of the world's poorest countries, organised in Siem Reap by the WTO and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido).
Lamy said progress has been made on "synergising WTO accession, trade openings, economic reform and production capacity in industry, services, or even agriculture, as you can see in the example of rice exports".
He added that Cambodia has been successful growing its economy with a "uniform economic strategy brought together under the relatively strong political hand of [Commerce Minister] Cham Prasidh".
"Cambodians are hardworking people. They are accustomed to adversity and do not have a fatalistic attitude," he said.
The remarks followed a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday that sharply criticised Western countries' reluctance to open their markets to Third World goods, as well as their refusal to scrap agricultural subsidies.
Participants at the end of the two-day talks produced a declaration on trade and the financial crisis that included 12 resolutions calling for inter-agency cooperation in the UN and more strategic partnerships.
"We strongly urge our development partners to implement all internationally agreed measures in favour of LDCs, and to adopt new ones, to enable our economies to benefit more from the existing opportunities provided by the international trading system," said a draft of the text.
The talks were in part meant to shore up Third World support for the Doha Round of WTO trade talks, which have stalled amid friction.
Trade deal needed
Lamy told officials at the meeting Wednesday that a trade deal was now more important than ever to help poor countries. "There is a strong sense that we are all on the same boat and that we must act and coordinate together if we are to lift ourselves," he said, according to an official transcript of his remarks.
He said the international community needed to keep in mind "the interests of its poorest and weakest members and deliver on the promises" of more and better development aid.
The financial crisis will "no doubt have profound, and possibly prolonged, effects" on poor countries, he added.
A statement from Unido and the WTO said the talks should focus on speeding up trade reform in poor countries, as developing countries press for greater access to agricultural markets in the industrialised world.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AGENCIES