Your Holiness the Buddhist Patriarchs,
The 22nd day of July 2003 has become another historic day for the Kingdom of Cambodia. A working group of your Royal Government, led by H.E. Cham Prasidh, the Minister of Commerce, has successfully concluded a series of negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland on Cambodia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The successful negotiations will culminate in the membership of Cambodia in the WTO to be officially launched at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Cancun, Mexico, from 10 to 14 September 2003.
My compatriots, the proactive efforts and difficult work that the Royal Government of Cambodia has exerted toward WTO membership over the past three years shall now bear fruit!
Cambodia is the first Least Developed Country to be admitted into the WTO. This achievement is hailed all over the world as a revolution in the history of the WTO, as no poor country has ever gained such status. All current members of the WTO, especially the developed countries, are warmly welcoming Cambodia’s membership. They have commended the Royal Government of Cambodia for being able to meet the stringent and voluminous conditions for WTO membership. In particular, they appreciate Cambodia’s clear commitment to democracy, principled respect for human rights and transparent and predictable promotion of the market economy.
In admitting Cambodia as a full partner, all WTO members have pledged to provide further support for the Royal Government’s comprehensive policy reform agenda aimed at the achievement of sustainable development and poverty reduction. Indeed, this strengthens the political and economic program of the Royal Government of Cambodia in the implementation of its “Triangular Strategy”, helping strengthen Cambodia’s opportunities for long-term development and serving as a firm foundation for the third term of the Royal Government of Cambodia.
Our Venerable Monks and all our beloved compatriots are aware that when we began the Second Term of the Royal Government, I introduced the “Triangular Strategy” covering the three key fundamentals in ensuring the sustainable development of Cambodia. The first side of this strategic triangle is building peace, restoring stability and maintaining security for the nation and people.
The second side is Cambodia’s rapid integration into the international community, especially into the comity of regional nations, and normalization of our relationships with the international financial institutions.
The third side of the Royal Government’s strategic triangle is to promote national development within the favorable context created by the implementation of key reform programs: military demobilization, public sector, judiciary and economic reforms including fiscal and banking reforms, land reform, fisheries reform and stringent measures taken to crack down on illegal logging and to promote environmental protection.
In implementing the second side of the strategic triangle, we have already achieved tremendous and invaluable progress. In only one week after the beginning of the second mandate in 1998, the Royal Government officially reclaimed Cambodia’s full and official seat at the United Nations. Within only two months from service, we organized a Consultative Meeting with the international community in Tokyo, achieving the full normalization of relations between Cambodia and the international development community, especially with the international financial organizations, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Then in April 1999, Cambodia became a full member of the ASEAN, contributing to the achievement of the vision of the ASEAN Ten which the founders of the ASEAN have dreamed of since the 1960s.
Indeed, over the past five years Cambodia’s image in the regional and international arena has gained strength and definition. Cambodia is now a full member in many key international organizations including the UN System, World Customs Union, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Association, and the International Center Settlement of International Disputes. Cambodia is now playing an active and significant role as an equal partner in a wide range of regional, subregional and international affairs. Today, Cambodia’s credibility in the regional and international arena has reached new heights, and our entire nation should be proud.
From 3-5 November 2002, Cambodia, with great honor and pride, hosted a large number of historic international events, achieving excellent results and receiving high praise and commendation by the international community. On 3 November 2002, the leaders of the Greater Mekong Subregion Program met in the First GMS Summit with the participation of the ADB President.
On 4-5 November 2002, the ASEAN Heads of States and Government convened as the 8th ASEAN Summit, back to back with the ASEAN+1 and ASEAN+3 Summits with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Moreover, the ASEAN+India Summit was convened for the first time. The President of South Africa, representing the African Community, also came to Cambodia to participate in the Special ASEAN-South Africa Summit.
In 2003, the Royal Government also played host in the gentle land of the Angkor to several important international events, including the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January 2003, and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum and other related meetings in June 2003. In the wake of the Royal Government’s success in implementing the agenda of international integration, the achievement of WTO membership represents the culmination of difficult and painstaking work along the second side of the Triangular Strategy of development.
Cambodia’s victories in international integration clearly demonstrate the intimate interlinkages among the three sides of the strategic triangle. The realization of peace, security and stability creates the prerequisites necessary for enhancing Cambodia’s credibility and active participation in regional and international affairs and in promoting economic and social development. Success in any of other two angles, such as success of diplomatic policy and international cooperation would have positive invaluable impact on the maintenance of peace, security and stability and the efforts in promoting economic and social development.
During the second term of the Royal Government, the “triangular strategy” triumphed over any political games and created a favorable environment for development both within and outside the country. This facilitated the preconditions for Cambodia to move forward with hope and strong confidence on its chosen path of reforms and development. Success has translated into strengthened international confidence in the country and the Cambodian people, resulting in benefits through increased trade, investment and tourist flows into Cambodia as well as closer international cooperation. All these developments are crucial for employment creation and increased incomes for Cambodian families, contributing to poverty reduction and improved welfare among our people.
The great success we have achieved so far that has culminated in WTO membership is the success of the nation and of all Cambodian people. On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I express my sincere appreciation to the working group of the Royal Government led by H.E. Mr. Cham Prasidh, Minister of Commerce, and the Cambodian missions at the UN and WTO in Geneva, who have dedicated their energy, intelligence and spirit to all difficulties in negotiations toward WTO accession, finally achieving unprecedented success.
I also thank the officials and staff of all ministries and offices of the Royal Government for work, support and all necessary collaboration extended to the working group of the Royal Government dedicated to the membership negotiations. I also thank the development partners of the Royal Government, especially the important international financial institutions, namely the IMF, World Bank and ADB, and all ASEAN members and other WTO members for their kind encouragement and support, including moral support, technical assistance, financial resources in addition to their open minds and flexibility and special understanding of Cambodia.
The successful negotiations highlight the fact that Cambodia has been on the correct track in modernizing the economy and liberalizing trade and investment in order to integrate the country into the regional and world economy and market. However, the government is conscious that becoming an effective member of the WTO may even be more difficult than the process of attaining membership. It is clear that many challenges in successful international trade and exchange still need to be overcome. To this end, Cambodia must exert its utmost efforts to face the numerous challenges, difficulties and obstacles to deepen reforms in all sectors, especially in institutional capacity building and human resource development, a process which takes time and requires strong commitment and political will.
Therefore, as Head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I appeal to the officials of all ministries and institutions, members of the armed forces, the authorities at all levels and each and every Cambodian citizen to continue to actively support and cooperate with the Royal Government in the implementation of reforms in all sectors. I also appeal to all of our development partners to continue their assistance and encouragement to the people and government of Cambodia in our never-ending quest for development and poverty reduction. Indeed, broad and determined cooperation and support is necessary for Cambodia to effectively meet all her obligations and commitments as a full-fledged and rightful member of the regional and international community, especially the World Trade Organization.
Phnom Penh, 23 July 2003