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Poor Nations Join To Seek WTO Entry

Twelve of the world’s poorest countries from Africa and Asia are meeting in Phnom Penh this week to seek possibilities of entering the World Trade Organization.

The countries will seek to speak with one voice, in solidarity, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told reporters Tuesday.

“Now we are trying to push for more [less-developed countries] to join,” he said. The idea is to have the countries speak in one voice in Geneva in November.

“I hope that if this year we are doing well, Laos is going to join,” along with the Pacific Island nations Samoa and Vanuatu, he said. “People have seen the advantage of joining the WTO, and this is something that we wanted to share in the world.”

Among the participants of the meeting, Cambodia, Nepal and Cape Verde have been admitted already in the World Trade Organization; Afghanistan, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Laos, Sudan, Vanuatu, Yemen and Liberia could follow.

Cham Prasidh said that the poorest countries need to lower their negotiation conditions in order to join “without having to pay a very high ticket price.”

Cambodia joined the trade body in 2004, after two and a half years of negotiation.

“Our interest in the WTO is to be able to develop a rules-based system to attract major private investment,” said Roy Mick Joy, chief negotiator for Vanuatu’s WTO bid.