Washington International Law Journal


During the 2003 World Trade Organization ("WTO") Ministerial Conference, Cambodia became the first least-developed nation to accede to the WTO through the organization's full working party accession process. Due to domestic, political, and economic pressures to accede, Cambodia agreed to an arduous package of legal and economic reform that have left many, including Cambodian officials, wondering whether the small country is capable of meeting its obligations. Having plunged into the WTO with the belief that accession is its best hope for a prosperous future, Cambodia now faces the challenges of implementation. In arguing against WTO membership for Cambodia, critics condemn powerful developed nations like the United States for pressuring the smaller, poorer country into an inequitable arrangement that may leave poor farmers worse off and the sick without access to drugs. Yet liberalizing its markets and integrating its economy with the rest of the world will ultimately benefit Cambodia because it will stimulate reform, encourage the continued flow of international assistance, and provide trade protections it otherwise would not enjoy. As a trade-dependent country, Cambodia made a wise investment by successfully negotiating for WTO membership. WTO membership can be a helpful tool for achieving greater prosperity for developing nations like Cambodia because it encourages progressive domestic policies.

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