Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called for East Timor to be made a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), so the country can benefit from preferential trade deals with richer states.
Hun Sen made the call at the opening of the Fifth China Round Table on World Trade Organisation Accessions in Siem Reap province, aimed at helping non-member states join the organisation’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) group.
The Premier recalled how joining the WTO in 2004 helped Cambodia open its doors to global trading, leading to a reduction in poverty rates. He added that conditions in Timor-Leste on his last visit were better than when Cambodia applied to join the WTO.
“Our trading volume has increased since joining the WTO,” he said. “We are now implementing policies to look abroad for more trade opportunities. I paid a visit to East Timor to see the situation there. I realised the country was actually in a better position than when Cambodia joined the WTO.”
Hun Sen said he could not see why anyone would object to allowing East Timor to be a full ASEAN member and also join the WTO. He urged the founder members of ASEAN to help support the move.
“I believe that East Timor can do it. Let’s allow them to jump into the water and test whether they can swim. If we don’t let them jump in, we will never know,” he added.
Wang Shouwen, China’s Vice Minister of Commerce, said the WTO’s multilateral trading systems play an important role in alleviating poverty, boosting trade and supporting economic development in LDCs. He added that only nine LDCs have joined the organisation since the WTO was established in 1995.
He noted that between 1995 and 2015, the export of LDC WTO members increased from $15.2 billion to $139.3 billion, which equates to an annual growth rate of 11.7 percent, or double the global average.
Over the same period, the GDP of LDC WTO members increased from $87.5 billion to $655.2 billion, with an annual growth rate of 10.6 percent, almost triple the global average.
“Take Cambodia as an example. Exports in Cambodia grew from $2.8 billion in 2004 when it joined the WTO, to $12 billion in 2015 – an average annual growth rate of 14.1 percent, 2.8 times the global figure and almost three times that of non-WTO LDC countries,” said Wang.
“During the same period, Cambodia’s GDP per capita maintained a 10 percent annual growth rate, nearly three times the global average. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go for the LDCs to better integrate into the multilateral trading system,” he added.
David Shark, deputy director-general of the WTO, acknowledged the significant role LDCs play in the organisation. “Enhanced integration of LDCs into the multilateral trading system is an institutional priority. Last year, we welcomed Liberia and Afghanistan into the WTO family,” he said.