U.S. Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Cambodia

WTO_OMC centeredStatement delivered by Christopher Wilson

As delivered

November 21, 2017 

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  The United States is pleased to participate in Cambodia’s second WTO Trade Policy Review and extends a warm welcome to the delegation of Cambodia, led by H.E. Minister Pan Sorasak.  We appreciate the reports prepared by the WTO Secretariat and Government of Cambodia, which outline recent developments in Cambodia’s trade policies and practices.

The United States would like to commend Cambodia for the economic success it has maintained since the last Trade Policy Review (TPR).  As one of the fastest growing world economies, Cambodia has become an increasingly important trading partner of the United States.  Since 2011, the United States and Cambodia have experienced a 9.5 percent increase in goods trade.  In addition, we have further deepened our trade relationship through continued dialogue under the United States-Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

As noted in the Secretariat’s report, Cambodia’s trade policy formulation and objectives are shaped by wide-ranging strategies such as the Cambodia Trade Integration Strategy (CTIS) and trade sector-wide approach (Trade SWAp).  These initiatives, together with the recent establishment of the Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the WTO, demonstrate that international trade continues to be a focal point in Cambodia’s long-term economic growth plans.  Cambodia’s success in maintaining high economic growth through trade-focused initiatives, together with its demonstrated efforts in meeting its WTO commitments, have made it an exemplary coordinator of the WTO’s LDC Group this year.

The United States appreciates Cambodia’s continued improvement in its WTO commitments by ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), as well as its August 2017 submission to the WTO of its Category A, B, and C notifications and indicative dates for implementation of the various provisions of the TFA.  We also would like to commend Cambodia for other positive reforms made in the area of customs procedures since the last TPR, such as widening the use of ASYCUDA (the Automated System for Customs Data) to all Cambodian border posts and implementing the Best Trade Programme.  As the Secretariat report notes, there is still room for further improvement in the area of customs procedures, and we look forward to seeing Cambodia continue to make such progress.

We commend Cambodia for the steps it has taken towards insulating its economy from external vulnerabilities through the Industrial Development Policy (IDP) 2015-2025.  Cambodia’s IDP focuses on transitioning the country’s industrial structure from labor-intensive industry to skill-driven industry with the ultimate goal of transforming Cambodia into a knowledge-based modern economy.  As part of this transition, Cambodia has launched some initiatives focused on improving the quality of its labor force.  These programs include, but are not limited to, the Education Strategic Plan 2014-18, the Royal Government’s technical vocational education and training policy, and programs for workers in the garment and tourism industries.

The United States also appreciates Cambodia’s commitment to improve its Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) regime.  As noted in the secretariat’s report, Cambodia’s SPS regime still faces a number of difficulties including problems with definitions of responsibilities and coordination between various agencies, limited capacity of these agencies, lack of adequate laboratory testing, and issues with inspections and monitoring.  The United States encourages Cambodia to continue its efforts to improve its implementation of the WTO SPS Agreement.

With respect to government procurement, the WTO Secretariat report notes that Cambodia is neither an observer to, nor a member of, the WTO’s Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).  The United States encourages Cambodia to consider becoming an observer to the GPA.

As noted in the Secretariat report, Cambodia, in conjunction with the International Labour Organization (ILO), has implemented a system through the Better Factories Programme to regularly monitor working conditions in some export factories.  In addition, during the review period, Cambodia enacted the Law on Trade Unions, which aims to provide a more detailed legal framework for the operation of trade unions by clarifying the rights and responsibilities of workers’ and employers’ organizations, and cope with the proliferation of unions.  However, Cambodia has acknowledged in the ILO’s Direct Contacts Mission Report that the Law on Trade Unions has created a number of difficulties, which have threatened workers’ free exercise of their right to freedom of association, including confusion in relation to the trade union registration process and the need to issue instructions and training in this regard. As noted in our questions, we look forward to hearing what steps Cambodia has taken to ensure that trade unions and administrative officials have a clear understanding of the new system of registration.

The United States welcomes the efforts by Cambodia to improve enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), although as noted in the WTO Secretariat report, IPR infringement continues to be widespread.  In addition, as the Secretariat report highlights, Cambodia has not made substantial change to its IPR legislation during the review period.  We encourage Cambodia to incorporate further development in its IPR regime as part of its efforts to increase foreign investment and diversify its economy.  Membership to treaties and conventions, such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty, WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works related to Copyrights and Related Rights, are key to Cambodia’s long-term development into a knowledge-based economy. Cambodia noted it has been receiving technical assistance from WIPO to aid in its accession to these treaties.  We would like to hear in more detail what kind of technical assistance WIPO has provided regarding these copyright treaties and what are the current timelines for their ratification.  In addition, we would like to confirm if, upon ratification, these treaties will be self-executing under Cambodian law.

The United States appreciates Cambodia’s efforts to prepare for this review and commends Cambodia for its demonstrated accomplishments in trade and investment reform.  Cambodia’s success in maintaining robust growth through inclusive trade policy makes it a role model for other LDCs.  The United States 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.

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