Cambodia's bid to join the World Trade Organization gained momentum with a 24-hour
visit by the body's director-general Mike Moore November 26.
Moore said he would be "very disappointed" if Cambodia had not joined within
a year. He was optimistic the government would make the necessary changes, but emphasized
that accession was also dependent on the unanimous agreement of the WTO's 144 members.
"I'm enthused, impressed and personally committed," said Moore, who met
the King, the Prime Minister and senators.
Other observers were more cautious about Cambodia's ability to carry out necessary
changes. Chairman of the British Business Association of Cambodia, Senaka Fernando,
said enforcement of legislation was a central concern for the foreign investment
"It's important to have all the legislation in place but also to make sure everybody
follows it, including local and foreign businesses," he said. "Having legislation
is one thing but enforcing it is another. Cambodia's enforcement of legislation is
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said most of the government's legislative action
plan would go through next year, although the time scale did extend up until 2004.
He said in some cases laws were already drafted and just needed amendments.
Secretary of State Sok Siphana said it was essential to the survival of the garment
industry, the country's biggest formal employer, that Cambodia joins the WTO before
2005 when the multi-fiber agreement expires.
"When that agreement expires it will enable all member countries of the WTO
to export textiles to any other country without quotas. If we are not a member of
the WTO by 2005 we will be subject to quotas and other countries will not."
"Joining the WTO forces us to put in place a whole framework - [more than] forty
pieces of legislation." These changes, he said, had now become a priority, and
included areas such as intellectual property and a properly functioning court system.