The European Union, the United States, China and other members of the World Trade Organisation have praised Cambodia for its economic development and fast integration into the global supply chain.
The remarks were made during Cambodia’s 2nd Trade Policy Review at the WTO in Geneva on Wednesday.
The three-day review was due to end yesterday, with Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak in Geneva to represent the kingdom.
Cambodia has been a member of WTO since 2004. As a member of the trade organisation, the country enjoys generalised system of preferences (GSP) from more advanced economies, especially the EU and the US, for garment and footwear products, as well as some agricultural commodities, particularly milled rice.
The office of the US Trade Representative released a statement commending the kingdom’s economic development since the last TPR, which took place in 2011.
“The United States appreciates Cambodia’s effort to prepare for this review and commends Cambodia for its demonstrated accomplishments in trade and investment reform,” it said. “Cambodia’s success in maintaining robust growth through inclusive trade policy makes it a role model for other least developed countries.
“The US wishes the delegation of Cambodia a successful review and we look forward to continued dialogue with Cambodia at the WTO and on a bilateral basis.”
The statement says Cambodia has enacted programmes and initiatives that have proved particularly successful, including the launch of the Industrial Development Policy for 2015-2025, the Education Strategic Plan for 2014-2018, as well as programs for workers in the garment and tourism industries.
The EU Trade Representative statement had a similar tone, acknowledging the country’s “open and investor-friendly investment regime”, but raised a few concerns.
“We would like to highlight the importance for Cambodia to improve the general business environment: promote good governance and transparency, and address weak institutional capacity by enacting and implementing legislation,” it said.
“We also encourage Cambodia to keep up its efforts to fight corruption.
“Second, the EU would encourage Cambodia to pursue efforts to diversify its export products and markets and to improve its infrastructure.
“Finally, while recognising steps made by Cambodia in the area of sanitary and phytosantiary measures, the EU encourage Cambodia to continue efforts to further improve inspection and certificate systems,” the EU said.
The Trade Representative of China said Cambodia had successfully integrated itself into regional and global supply chains.
“By and large, there has been a remarkably rapid economic development during the period under review for Cambodia, with an annual GDP growth of over 7 percent,” China said.
“The excellent performance of economic development was possible thanks to a steady and people-oriented micro-economic environment.
“We also would like to commend the positive measures and policies the Cambodian government has undertaken to ftraacilitate trade and investment.”
The Chinese statement also says Cambodia is facing a number of constraints and challenges impeding its economic development, most notably a lack of infrastructure.
Mr Sorasak said that since the first review in 2011, the country had instituted deep structural reforms that had allowed it to achieve economic growth averaging 7 percent yearly, as well as boosting GDP per capita growth, from $911 in 2011 to $1,302 in 2016.
He said that according to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Cambodia was the sixth-fastest growing economy in the world in the last 20 years.
“Through this robust economic growth, there has been an improvement in the welfare of Cambodian people and reduced poverty from 53 percent in 2004 to 13.5 percent in 2014 and literacy rates increased from 79.9 percent in 2011 to 80.5 percent in 2015,” he said.
Cambodia has been appointed to be the coordinator for the Least Developed Countires Group this year, which means the country will work together with all group members to ensure their needs and interests are represented in the trade organisation.