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Analysts: Cambodia Should Not Focus on Trans-Pacific Partnership

FILE - Garment workers rest inside a factory after their lunch break in Phnom Penh.

As the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership moves forward, analysts say Cambodia should focus on other obligations in the region.

Jayant Menon, lead economist for the Asian Development Bank, told VOA Khmer from Manila that Cambodia would do better to try to meet its obligations under ASEAN and the World Trade Organization, rather than worry about the TPP.

He added that Cambodia can consider the TPP at a later date. The U.S.-led partnership agreement, which so far includes 12 countries, will likely not change things much within ASEAN, he said.

But the language of the agreement still needs to be hammered out in meetings next month, “and we’ll have a better idea what exactly it looks like,” he said.

The ASEAN nations included in the TPP are Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Chab Sotharith, senior fellow of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said Cambodia does not need to join them yet.

“So, in the future, when we expand our productivity base better, we can find more markets, then we must become a member of TPP, as well as others," he said.

Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union, said Cambodia could benefit from the TPP if it had more goods to market.

"We don’t produce many things besides garment products and a little rice. So we can benefit not much as a member of the TPP. Now we still enjoy the preference of Most Favored Nation. We can [already] export our products to US and a number [of] countries in Europe free from taxes because they consider us a poor country."

Cambodia's garment industry is the country's largest for exports, responsible for $5 billion in shipments overseas, mostly to the U.S. and the European Union.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.