IS AN UNOFFICIAL SUMMARY OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MEETING, PREPARED BY
THE WTO SECRETARIAT’S INFORMATION AND MEDIA RELATIONS DIVISION TO
HELP PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING. IT IS NOT AN OFFICIAL RECORD.
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> Accessions in general
Cambodia and WTO members in the working party said they aim to
complete the membership deal by the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference
in Cancún, 10–14 September 2003.
That could make Cambodia the first least-developed country to join
the WTO since its creation in 1995. It would also comply with
instructions ministers gave to their negotiators at the previous
ministerial conference in Doha, November 2001. The Doha Declaration
says: “We agree to work to facilitate and accelerate negotiations
with acceding LDCs” (paragraph 42).
The head of the Cambodian delegation, State Secretary Sok Siphana,
described developments since the last meeting in February (2002). The
Cambodian economy is performing quite well, 17 laws and draft economic
laws have been supplied to WTO members, a draft civil and civil
procedural code has recently been completed, trademark protection is
being enforced, and Cambodia has been able to mobilize “substantial” technical assistance under the Integrated
Framework (involving the WTO and a number of other international
organizations) to enable it to comply with WTO obligations. Bilateral
negotiations are also taking place, including, discussions on the
fringes of the working party’s meeting in Geneva, as well as past
and future negotiations in Phnom Penh.
“It is our hope that Cambodia can realize its dream at the
Fifth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancún next year,” the
Cambodian delegation head said.
ASEAN members of the WTO strongly backed a swift conclusion to
bring fellow-member Cambodia into the WTO. The ASEAN countries urged
developed countries not to make tough demands since Cambodia is a
least-developed country. Djibouti and Haiti, both LDCs, and China
echoed the sentiment. Developed countries said they would be flexible.
Some of the issues
Questions mainly came from Australia, US, EU, Chinese Taipei and
Japan. Further questions will be submitted in writing.
party members are prepared to allow Cambodia transition periods for
implementing some obligations. The US asked Cambodia to be specific on
the timetable for these transition periods (end-point and milestones
along the way). While accepting that the transition could include some
intellectual property (TRIPS) provisions, the US said this should not
include areas where Cambodia already complies with TRIPS and basic
TRIPS principles such as non-discrimination (MFN and national
Laws and legal system:
Australia and the US asked for a roadmap showing when Cambodia
envisages remaining legislation will be enacted. The US asked when
Cambodia intends to set up commercial courts — the currently-used
common courts lack expertise in commercial issues. Cambodia took note,
adding that the civil code will take some time because consultation is
needed under its democratic system. As an interim measure, before
commercial courts are fully established, Cambodia is using technical
assistance to train judges in commercial and other specialist issues,
the delegation said.
Australia and the US said they expected Cambodia to bind its export
subsidies at zero, since at present it has no export subsidies.
Australia also urged Cambodia not to convert tariffs into tariff
quotas, which are more complex and less transparent (Cambodia has said
it is considering introducing tariff quotas).
Bilateral meetings will continue. The chairperson said he hopes
most of the outstanding points will be cleared up at the next working
party meeting, possibly in March or April. “It’s a hope. Of
course much will depend on the negotiations”.
Working party members:
Australia, Canada, China, European Union and member states, India ,
Japan, Korea, Republic of, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chinese
Taipei, Thailand, United States, Venezuela
Cambodia’s working party was established on 21 December 1994.
Cambodia submitted a memorandum on its foreign trade regime in June
1999. Replies to questions concerning the memorandum were circulated
in January 2001. Bilateral market access negotiations are being
conducted in Geneva and Phnom Penh. The 14 November 2002 meeting was
the working party’s third. It marked an advancement of the accession
process because for the first time members focused on the elements of
a draft working party report and, thereby, concentrated on agreeing
Cambodia’s terms of entry.