Phnom Penh, Cambodia (27 January 2011)
The Ministry of Commerce marked the conclusion of a five-year trade development project today with renewed aspiration to further strengthen foundations for enhancing Cambodia’s capacity in using international trade as a vehicle for alleviating poverty..
H.E. CHAM Prasidh, Senior Minister and Minister of Commerce, presiding over the workshop on Trade-Related Assistance for Development and Equity (TRADE) project, led a discussion about the achievements of the project and the way forward in pro-poor trade development in Cambodia.
“I believe the work done by TRADE has been at the forefront of Cambodia’s effort to look for new opportunities to expand and diversify its export base. It is also reflected in several important government initiatives, such as our new Rice Sector Policy and our recent agreement with China on sanitary requirements for rice and cassava,” H.E. CHAM Prasidh said in his key note remark on Thursday.
TRADE was implemented by the Ministry of Commerce, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). From 2006 onwards, TRADE has been one of the key donor-funded initiatives supporting ongoing efforts by the Royal Government of Cambodia to mainstream trade at the policy and institutional levels, develop institutional capacity in key departments of the Ministry of Commerce, and other selected government bodies. The project focused on enabling the government to manage trade-related technical assistance more effectively and to ensure that international trade is a vehicle to help Cambodia achieve its poverty reduction and human development goals.
One of the project’s most important impacts was enhancing the Ministry’s effectiveness in managing overseas development assistance in the trade sector, a function that was prompted by the formation of a Department of International Cooperation (DICO).
“TRADE provided major support to our efforts to promote greater coordination of Aid-for-Trade among various development partners. This is at the core of our work to bring together, in a joint effort, all Cambodian stakeholders that can contribute to the success of Cambodia’s trade sector,” H.E. CHAM Prasidh said.
Recognizing that effective trade development requires stakeholders’ access to quality market information, the project worked to establish value chain and trade information analysis capabilities within the Ministry of Commerce. This effort included the creation of a Value Chain Unit within the Trade Promotion Department.
The Unit has already produced three profiles on rice, cassava, and cashew nuts – the sectors identified by the government as having major potentials for export. “We are working hard to find new support from other development partners to continue this very important work,” the minister said.
Another main goal of TRADE was to enhance Cambodia’s export capacity in several strategic sectors. In particular, the project worked with rice millers and government officials to explore new markets for rice, leading trade missions as far afield as the EU and West Africa. The project also sponsored work with cassava processors, including the arrangement of meetings with cassava buyers in China. The project also helped secure a memorandum of understanding between Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces and Dong Nai province in Vietnam, which has led to technical assistance support from Vietnamese cashew nut processors to cashew growers in Cambodia. TRADE also provided support to prahoc producers and sponsored a major conference on trade finance that inspired Government to include a focus on finance in its new rice policy.
TRADE has helped put Cambodia, as a least developed country, at the forefront of countries seeking to use international trade as a driver for poverty alleviation. Cambodia’s leadership is reflected in the fact that officials from other least developed countries such as Laos, Nepal, Bhutan, and Timor Leste came to the country throughout the course of the programme to observe first-hand – and ultimately emulate – the project.
UNDP Country Director Elena Tischenko was also present to mark the programme’s successful conclusion. She said UNDP firmly believes that trade sector development should be an instrument of poverty reduction, as is reflected in the selection of priority sectors for export expansion.