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Cambodia-US Relations Advance One Step Further

Updated On: Jul 07, 2009

By Chheang Vannarith

The recent US foreign policy decision to remove Cambodia and Laos from the trade black list in June 2009 allows US companies to access loans when doing business in Cambodia. This marks a great leap forward in improvement of the relationship between Cambodia and the US.

This event is welcomed by Cambodia and the International Community at large, especially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This grouping believes that Cambodia-US economic relations will contribute to stronger regional integration and development. These promising developments are a result of efforts over the last fifteen years to build mutual trust and an improved relationship between the two nations.

US-Cambodia diplomatic relations were reestablished in the mid 1990s after the US Embassy was constructed in Phnom Penh in 1994. There followed a brief period of diplomatic uncertainty, following the controversies of 1997.

US Secretary of State, Collin Powel, turned a new page in US-Cambodian relations after his visit to Phnom Penh in 2003. Since then bilateral relations between the two countries have made smooth progress and a number of remarkable achievements have been made.   

For Instance, after the end of the WTO’s Multi-fiber agreement of 2004, the US played a pivotal role in preserving the Cambodian garment industry by providing preferential treatment to imports from Cambodia. Furthermore, in 2006, the U.S. and Cambodia signed the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to facilitate bilateral trade between the two countries.

In 2007, Cambodia was the third largest recipient of US foreign assistance in the Asia Pacific region after Indonesia and the Philippines. Cambodia received US$ 62 million in aid from the US during this time. Most of this was channeled through non-governmental organizations operating in Cambodia.

The U.S. is the largest market for Cambodian exports. In 2007, Cambodian garment exports to the US accounted for 2.6 billion US Dollars. In addition, the textile industry employed about 350 000 workers, the majority of them women.

Military cooperation between the two countries has also improved since 2007 when Cambodia welcomed the first two US Navy Ships to visit the country in thirty years. Further grounds for cooperation were established in the fight against terrorism. There was also cooperation in work to locate US soldiers Missing in Action and the Peace Corps began operations in Cambodia. In addition, the US donated 67 army trucks to the Cambodian armed forces (31 trucks in 2008 and 36 trucks in 2009). Lastly, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation supported Cambodian police forces with data collection and analysis.

The improvement in bilateral relations between the US and Cambodia will advance the cause of Southeast Asian regional integration and Asia Pacific Community Building.

Sunday, July 12, 2009
Southeast Asia Weekly

Vannarith Chheang
About the author: 

Mr. Vannarith Chheang is the Executive Director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

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