Cambodia

‘No Rush’ For Cambodia on Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, Experts Say

A man working at a money exchange (R) passes 100 Cambodian riel notes to a client  in central Phnom Penh, file photo. A man working at a money exchange (R) passes 100 Cambodian riel notes to a client in central Phnom Penh, file photo.
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A man working at a money exchange (R) passes 100 Cambodian riel notes to a client  in central Phnom Penh, file photo.
A man working at a money exchange (R) passes 100 Cambodian riel notes to a client in central Phnom Penh, file photo.
Khoun ThearaVOA Khmer
PHNOM PENH - Two ambitious trade negotiations are moving forward in the Asia Pacific, but Cambodia should first pursue a regional partnership before joining in with all of the Asia Pacific, trade experts say.

Cambodia should build momentum on the existing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asean-driven agreement, before considering the US-supported Trans-Pacific Partnership, experts say.

The RCEP is a deal between Asean nations and the governments of Australian, China, India, South Korea and New Zealand, and groups together about $17 trillion in annual GDP.

The TPP, on the other hand, includes countries from around the Pacific Rim, including the US, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Peru, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan—putting together about $28 trillion in GDP.

Chheang Vannarith, a senior research fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, called the TPP the “gold standard” of trade agreements.

However, he said, “I am afraid that it requires adequate capacity to reform and adapt to such a high standard.”

“There is no rush” for Cambodia to join, he said. “It needs to focus on the regional free trade area.”

Both deals reflect regional economies and political will and would strengthen economic integration, he said. But they also will challenge the World Trade Organization, which is “slow” at facilitating free trade in some goods and services.

The newer, robust deals also deal in goods and services, but they also involve flows of investment, competition policies, and the protection of intellectual property and the environment, Chheang Vannarith said.

Mel Kalyan, a senior adviser to the government’s Supreme National Economic Council, said that several countries in Southeast Asia are looking to join in the TPP.

“So we should also be ambitious and should not put all our fish in one basket,” he said. “We should diversify our trading partners, but at the moment, joining the TPP is beyond Cambodia’s reach, so we should enhance our competitiveness in the RCEP first.”

To do that, Cambodia will need a stronger export capacity and better human resources that can contribute to production, Chheang Vannarith said. That could mean moving from a labor-intensive economy to one that is more knowledge based, he said.
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Former Khmer Rouge Head of State in Court for Genocide Hearingi
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30 July 2014
Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge president, Khieu Samphan, arrived in court on Wednesday (July 30) for an initial hearing on charges for genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Khieu Samphan was at the apex of power within the Khmer Rouge, a regime responsible for the deaths of around 1.7 million Cambodians during their time in power from 1975-79. The former official, along with regime head Pol Pot's deputy, Nuon Chea, is already on trial for crimes against humanity associated with the forced evacuation of the capital Phnom Penh and the executions of soldiers. This second round of hearings centres around a far broader list of charges, and will likely have a greater significance for many survivors of the regime. (Reuters, Phnom Penh.)

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