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Commerce Minister Says TPP Could Help Cambodian Trade

Cambodan Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol participates in a panel discussion titled “The Landscape of ASEAN in 2016 and the Vision for 2025” in San Francisco, Wednesday, February 17, 2016. (Courtesy of Cambodian Ministry of Commerce's Facebook page)

Sun Chanthol’s comments mark the second time Cambodian trade officials have shown support for the TPP.

Cambodia will need several years to chart a path toward joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, but Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol believes it would be worth the effort.

The trade pact so far has 12 partners, including the US, but it will take at least two years for the TPP to be endorsed by their respective lawmaking bodies, Sun Chanthol told reporters recently.

In the future, Cambodia could also join. “I believe that Cambodia is a small but open nation,” he said. “We don’t forbid a lot of things in Cambodia. Hence, if we sign a lot of bilateral agreement with other nations in the world, it is a really good thing for Cambodia.”

Sun Chanthol’s comments mark the second time Cambodian trade officials have shown support for the TPP, whose prospective members include ASEAN neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

The deal extends favorable trade conditions to members, but requires they shore up regulations on intellectual property rights and other trade regulations. That could mean hurdles for Cambodia.

“In terms of intellectual property rights, we might find it hard to fulfill the requirements because in our country there are a lot of counterfeit products,” Chan Sophal, director of the Center for Policy Studies, told VOA Khmer. Still, the deal would be worth it, for the low or zero tariffs. “It would help Cambodia in terms of exporting more garments to the US,” he said.

ASEAN ministers, including Sun Chanthol, discussed the deal at the US-ASEAN summit in Southern California earlier this month. It could eventually group 40 percent of the global GDP and could compete with the Chinese-led Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership.

“The US has talked about conducting a workshop to explain to the nations that are not yet TPP members to understand the agreement,” Sun Chanthol told reporters. “Hence, we are preparing to understand more and explore the TPP deal from the US. Let them explain to us the related points to the work, the environment, and so on.”