Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - GATT Rebuttal

GATT Rebuttal

GATT Rebuttal

Ms. Donelan's letter regarding my article on Cambodia and the GATT both misses

the essential point and accuses the GATT for not doing what it has not been given

a mandate to do. Moreover, environmental considerations, which are very recent in

terms of public policy implications, are reasons for joining the organization, rather

than the contrary. Only in the GATT can a country seek redress over the interaction

between trade policy and the environment.

To return to what I wrote. The purpose was twofold. First, to relay information on

Cambodia's historical involvement with the GATT which very few people are aware of.

Publicizing a vital little known fact means that should a new government opt to become

a member (Laos, and China previously, and Vietnam, recently, have both put out feelers

to this end), they are in a uniquely important position. The other essential point

flows from my view that Cambodia's future-because of its small domestic market in

terms of purchasing power and limited natural resource potential-lies in joining

an economic trade zone. Should it accept to do so, and the Thais have taken a lead

in proposing this for the region, then the provisions of the GATT treaty provide

it, unlike any other international organization operating in this field, with the

wherewithal to defend its national interests. Does Ms. Donelan really believe that

Cambodia can stand outside with Burma while all its neighbors are either members

or trying to negotiate their accession?

The deterrent aspects of GATT's protective features probably account for the fact

that developing countries make up two thirds of the member countries.

Ms. Donelan's other comments touched on developing country debt; commodity prices;

the Uruguay Round; and the environment. The former two are not in the GATT mandate;

anyone who has worked in an international secretariat knows member governments do

not let international organizations step outside their proscribed area. The Uruguay

Round can only be ignored by those unfamiliar with, or indifferent to, the contribution

of economic efficiency and the trading system to postwar economic prosperity.

Having been the author of GATT's first study on the environment in 1972 I share some

of the concerns raised by Ms. Donelan. Just four quick facts to be brief.

GATT Article XX permits a member to place health, safety or domestic resource conservation

goals ahead of non-discrimination, when certain conditions are fulfilled. The statement

that the "environment committee has met only since 1945!" is false. It

was only created in 1972; its current focus is on the trade provisions in environmental

agreements vis-à-vis legal obligations under GATT. Treatment of environmental

issues internationally is complex largely through scientific disagreement as to where

to cut-off wholly domestic issues from transborder spillovers and effects on the

global commons. Finally, one of the objectives of the Uruguay Round is to establish

disciplines that will permit governments-whether developed or developing-to provide

necessary protection for humans, animals and plants while minimizing the adverse

effects that such measures may have on each others international trade.

For the moment, GATT rules can not block the adoption of environmental policies which

have the broad support of the world community. This is simply because the support

of two-thirds of GATT membership-currently 69 out of 103 countries-is sufficient

to amend the rules or grant a waiver.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of