Francophone States Must Work Together: Minister

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The Minister of Commerce on Monday urged member estates of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), particularly less developed economies, to work together to achieve more favourable trade terms in light of ever-increasing competition in international markets.

Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak speaks at the Asia-Pacific and Caribbean Regional Meeting on the preparation for the next WTO Ministerial Conference. KHMER TIMES / SUPPLIED

Pan Sorasak, speaking during the opening ceremony of the Asia Pacific and Caribbean Regional Meeting on the preparation for the forthcoming 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, held from October 17 to 19 in Siem Reap, said there is a need for more coordination among OIF members to achieve greater trade harmonisation.

“Changes in the global situation and the rise of anti-globalisation and protectionist rhetoric have sparked an uncertainty that affects the trade and investment environments. This, in turn, has an effect on the speed of economic development, slowing down the globalisation process of each member country,” said the Minister. “With this in mind, the OIF should intervene to maintain trade harmonisation as well as eliminating trade barriers.”

Sorasak said Cambodia has been tasked with coordinating the OIF’s LDCs [least developed countries] since February in discussions related to trade. “With the cooperation of the OIF, Cambodia will lead LDCs to make the most of the upcoming WTO ministerial conference,” he added. “We urge developed nations to fulfil their promises to provide more duty-free, quota-free trade treatments to LDCs. As the coordinator of the group, Cambodia will do its best so that commitments made during the Doha Development Agenda are realised.”

Henri Monceau, the OIF’s permanent representative, said the purpose of preparatory consultations is to bring together all the parties concerned to begin a dialogue around some of the most important topics that will be covered in the next ministerial conference of the WTO, which will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December. “It is time to end the granting of subsidies that imbalances exercises of these activities on a global scale. It is also time we are done with the illegal fishing, which ruins oceans and environments,” said Monceau. “The representative of the OIF wishes to see world development, technological development and the participation of all stakeholders.”

According to Sorasak, since joining the WTO in October 2004, the Kingdom has gained numerous trade benefits. The Minister said Cambodia enjoys the fastest economic growth of any LDC in the OIF – seven percent yearly GDP growth on average between 2004 and 2017. At the same time, poverty rates have dropped from 47.8 percent in 2007 to only 13.5 percent in 2014. Sorasak also pointed out that with a GDP per capita of $1,070, Cambodia achieved lower middle-income status in the World Bank’s rankings in 2015.

Cambodia’s trade volume reached $30 billion in 2016, with the European Union, Cambodia’s biggest export market for garments and footwear, absorbing 45 percent of exports, and the US purchasing 25 percent. Among the EU economies, the UK is Cambodia’s top trading partner, receiving 24.3 of exports, followed by Germany, which takes 20.4 percent.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.

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