In the coming couple of years as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) inches its way toward implementation, Cambodia will be charting a path to join the now 12-nation trade deal that its ASEAN neighbors—Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam—are already a part of.
With Vietnam poised to benefit the biggest from the TPP, neighboring Cambodia with its existing advantages in apparel and textile manufacturing, could face stiffer competition.
At present, Vietnam already far outpaces Cambodia in terms of exports to the U.S., with Vietnam sending the States $11.29 billion worth of textiles and apparel in 2015 compared to Cambodia’s $2.5 billion.
Cambodia’s commerce minister Sun Chanthol thinks finding a way into the TPP agreement would be worth the effort for the country.
“I believe that Cambodia is a small but open nation,” he told VOA Cambodia. “We don’t forbid a lot of things in Cambodia. Hence, if we sign a lot of bilateral agreement with other nations in the world, it is a really good thing for Cambodia.”
Where intellectual property rights are concerned, however, Chanthol expressed concern for the country’s difficulty in fulfilling certain requirements as outlined in the TPP because of the host of counterfeit products in the country.
That aside, the low or zero tariffs TPP would provide for its member nations would help increase Cambodia’s garment exports to the U.S., he said.
The commerce minister and other ASEAN ministers reportedly discussed the deal at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in California earlier this month, mulling plans to delve further into the deal’s prospects.
“The U.S. has talked about conducting a workshop to explain to the nations that are not yet TPP members to understand the agreement,” Chanthol told VOA. “Hence, we are preparing to understand more and explore the TPP deal from the U.S. Let them explain to us the related points to the work, the environment, and so on.”