In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, during the opening of the 2008 – Ministerial Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – AID for Trade: An Industrial Agenda for LDCs, co-sponsored by the United Nations Industrial Development Organizations (UNIDO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) – made some remarks as follows.
Speaking in One Voice
Once gain I would like to take this solemn occasion to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Director General of UNIDO, Mr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, and Director General of WTO, Mr. Pascal Lamy, and all of you who have made efforts, with Cambodia as host, in organizing this ministerial conference of the least developed countries. What I wish to say in addition to what has been written is that not only when we are in the current situation but even in normal one, the least developed countries (LDC) have to stress the importance of solidarity, speak in one voice so that we all would guarantee a common success.
Below Import Standards?
As we know all meetings have made higher and higher promises of development. Promises, including the one that pledges 0.7% of GDP as aid, have not been realized yet. A few countries in Europe have fulfilled their promises, while we notice that trade barriers are being erected against the poor countries. LDCs have all been open for products from developed countries. But when we send our products to developed countries, we have encountered strong barriers – from tax tariff to various forms of condition or quarantine issues.
What they consider inapplicable in protecting their economy or products, they would turn away by saying only a phrase “(the products are) below standard for importation.” Their products came into our countries freely and at high prices. On top of that we have heard they said about cease of agricultural subsidies in their countries, but most are still there.
World Financial Crisis Impacts
As a result, agricultural productions in our countries are cheaper compared to theirs, but we could not bring them to markets in their countries. The reason for that is because they still have agricultural subsidy policy in place. I think to address this issue the least developed countries have to unite and to speak in one voice so as to secure success in negotiating process and continue to negotiate with hope though the world is hit by financial crisis, and at the time that the rich countries have to bail out their financial and economic ailments.
While doing so, LDCs are aware that the rich countries will reduce its oversea development assistance (ODA) or cut down loans via multilateral financial institutions. Some countries have resorted to barring loans to foreign creditors but to only local banks. This makes some projects with financing sources from foreign countries feeling the impacts from this trend.
Last week I attended the ACMECS meeting in Hanoi. I have reminded the member countries on one fact that ACMECS members have made countless products into the rich countries, take for instance Cambodia exported a sum of about 36,000 US dollars into the markets in Europe, the US. But as the crisis takes place, countries with lower income would not be in the position to make more orders for costly dresses.
They therefore will have to reconsider low cost dresses made with average labors and skills. Take for instance man’s suit could cost 200 US dollars at the lowest and 4,000 US dollars at the highest. If they in this instance turn to cheaper made suit, it would not be too bad.
Opportunity Always Exists in Time of Crisis
I have looked at the list of participants and it reminds me of a number of countries in Africa that I visited in the times when I was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Recently Guinea contacted Cambodia to purchase some agricultural products. This has made me think that in time of crisis there are always opportunities as at the time of fuel and food crisis Cambodia could see the opportunity of expanding production to provide food for both local and the world.
Partners Vs Competitors
Among the five (ACMECS) countries we have the objective to create an Association of Rice Exporting Countries (AREC), which is exporting a total of 50% or 53% of rice in the world. Some say the idea of establishing this Association is for bargaining edge with OPEC.
The reality is different, OPEC is for exporting oil and when oil price hit lower they also reduce their production whereas AREC will increase its production so as to meet the world demand for food. I think we should try to cooperate and speak in one voice on this matter. But we should bear in mind that we are both partner and competitor because among the five countries members of ACMECS – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, we all try to make cooperation and also to attract own foreign investments.
Win-win Competition Principle
The principle of competition though should be carried out in a win-win manner, where everyone could be an integral part so as to develop altogether. As an example, Cambodia should not think that when its neighboring countries are in difficulties, factories would move to Cambodia or Cambodia would have the chance to have tourists coming to Cambodia instead of those in turmoil. It is not a good thing. We have to see it as an interdependent situation, which one fault in the system would have impact on the others.
Take for example the terrorist attacks would not only have impact in that particular place but to other countries related and when the airlines are under threats of attack no one would be willing to take the flight and they would not get to their destinations at all.
Excellent Stay In Siem Reap
As for our guests who are present for this conference, I would wish you all an excellent stay in Siem Reap province though what this city used to be in 1979 would not be similar to what you have seen here today. People have been evacuated whereas about three millions lives were taken. It has taken us 28 years to finish the war in Cambodia and to put an end to it wasting not even a single bullet.
Khmers unite under the Constitution, HM the King and the Royal Government of Cambodia irrespective of races. For your information here we have only two hotels left from the previous time whereas about a hundred new hotels are now catering their services. Among them about ten hotels are the investments from abroad whereas the rests are covered by local investors…■