U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Winston Lord said that
the Clinton administration would lobby the Senate to unconditionally hammer out Most
Favored Nation status to allow Cambodian exports to enter the US market.
"We will continue to push MFN unconditionally for Cambodia. It is important
not only for trade here but also for promoting investment," Lord (pictured below)
said at a press conference on Jan 16.
MFN already passed the US House of Representatives but was yet to be approved by
senate, he said.
"MFN is supported by the administration for Cambodia, we support it and it should
be unconditional, in our view," he said.
During his three-day visit (Jan 14-16), the state department official met with National
Assembly chairman Chea Sim, co-Premiers Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, Foreign Minister
Ung Huot, NGO representatives, student and human rights groups.
He failed to elaborate specific topics of his talks with the Cambodian leaders, but
said that they were "frank, with mutual respect".
In December, Hun Sen angered by the Senate's attempt to condition MFN launched a
blunt criticism at the US, along with France, and threatened to hold a peaceful demonstration
against their embassies to stop their interference in Cambodia's internal affairs.
Lord, whose trip was also seen as a move to clear any doubt in the two nations' ties,
refused to discuss the topic with the press but said "We focused really on the
future rather than on the past."
"We're not here to interfere in the domestic affairs, we are here as a friend
to suggest that opposition expression and parties are important elements," said
"I think it's helpful to government leaders to have a free press so that they
can keep in touch with the people of different points of view so that difficult issues
can be debated," he said.
"I think you have greater stability when there is openess in a society rather
than having it bottled up," he said.
He acknowledged difficulties Cambodia is facing on its democratic path which the
US will continue to support and encourage.
"There is no question that the road to democracy is a complex one. But I think
we also have to keep in mind just how far Cambodia has come from the killing fields
in recent years. We encourage it in Cambodia's own self interest and in terms of
maintaining international support," he said.
However, Lord made it known that Washington would also keep close watch on the Kingdom's
"I think we owe it to the Cambodian government as friend to point out where
we see certain development could be troublesome. So, if there are unfortunate events
in the future, which I don't predict and I hope it not occur, we will convey our
concerns," he said.