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Australia “won’t walk away” from free trade despite TPP blow: government

CANBERRA, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) — Australia will work with the remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) nations and look to other nations to salvage what it can of the doomed free trade agreement after U.S. President Donald Trump’s overnight decision to withdraw from the deal, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said.

Following Trump’s decision to axe America’s involvement, effectively leaving the deal in its current form ‘dead in the water’, Ciobo has already said other nations which were a part of the original deal had opened up discussion lines about a potential replacement, as the Trump decision was “not unexpected”.

“We are not going to walk away from pursuing high quality trade deals that are good for Australian exports,” Ciobo told Sky News on Tuesday.

He said there was a possibility that a “TPP 12 minus one” deal, which would involve the remaining 11 signatories, could get off the ground as the Australian government had been in close contact with representatives from the original TPP nations.

“A number of us had a conversation about a possible ‘TPP 12 minus one’ in other words, the Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the United States in order to keep hold of the gains we’ve been able to agree (upon),” Ciobo told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday.

“I’ve had conversations with Canada, Japan, Mexico, with New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. I know there have been conversations with Chie and Peru.

“There are quite a number of countries that have an interest in looking to see if we could make a ‘TPP 12 minus one’.”

The Trade Minister also hinted at the possibility of introducing a new, or multiple new nations, into the agreement; he told the ABC there has been interest from Indonesia, while China may also be approached.

“The original architecture was to enable other countries to join,” Ciobo said.

“Certainly I know that Indonesia has expressed a possible interest. And there would be scope for China if we’re able to reformulate it to be a ‘TPP 12 minus one’ for countries like Indonesia or China – or indeed other countries – to consider joining.”

However, he said, it may be some time before formal discussions about the matter take place, considering Trump was also keen to “renegotiate” the existing North American Free Trade Agreement.

“President Trump has indicated he wants to renegotiate elements of the North American FTA, and that would have an impact on Canada and Mexico, which in turn would have an impact on the kind of deal we could reach under the ’12 minus one’,” Ciobo said.

Despite the optimism from the government on the matter, the federal opposition has urged the government to “move on” from the doomed multilateral trade deal; opposition spokesperson Jason Clare said

“This executive order means the TPP is now officially dead,” Clare said. “(Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull’s credibility is not in much better shape.”

“Last week he announced that his big economic plan for the year was to introduce legislation to implement the TPP. Donald Trump’s executive order today means Malcolm Turnbull’s big economic plan is also dead. It would have no effect at all.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to wake up and move on, and develop a real economic plan for Australia.”


Written by Kham

24/01/2017 at 9:51 am

Trump”Make America Great again” US officially withdrew from TPP agreement

January 23,2017

contributed by Kok Sap

First full day as President, Mr Trump just killed TPP today,January 23,2017. This snow ball effect which will,in fact, impact other trade agreement that US made with its neighbors during President Clinton administration. As promised, President signed the withdrawal today. Thus it currently can not be ratified due to U.S. withdrawal from the agreement today.

Source: Wikipedia 250px-leaders_of_tpp_member_states

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is a trade agreement among eleven of the Pacific Rim countries—notably not including China. The finalized proposal was signed on 4 February 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand, concluding seven years of negotiations.

(The former Obama administration claimed that the agreement aimed to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in the signatories’ countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.)

” The TPP contains measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade and establish an investor -state dispute settlement or investment court system is a system through which individual companies can sue countries for alleged discriminatory practices.”

Written by Kham

24/01/2017 at 9:35 am

After Two Decades, Friends-International Keeps on Changing

By | February 9, 2014

Sebastien Marot had expected Cambodia to only be a stopover on his way to Japan when he first landed in Phnom Penh in 1994.

As a young man, he was posted at the French Embassy in Japan during his mandatory national service. Later he worked briefly for a Japanese broadcasting network, and then spent three years in sales and marketing at the French cosmetics giant L’Oreal in Paris.

Missing Asia, especially Japan, Mr. Marot decided to return. But first he would make a visit to Cambodia, a country that had been much in the news since the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991. The sight of street children sleeping on sheets of cardboard near Central Market made him change his plans.

How could there been such poverty in Cambodia, he wondered, after scores of countries had spent billions on the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac), which organized the 1993 election, and there were still huge development programs and a plethora of NGOs and international organizations in Phnom Penh.

“Rebuilding a country without ‘rebuilding’ the kids made no sense to me: It seemed an unspeakable waste,” Mr. Marot said.

Mr. Marot and a group of foreign friends pooled their resources so he could open a modest shelter for street children and set up a class to give them a basic education.

“I thought I would stay here three months, then turn this over to Cambodians and leave for Japan,” he said. But there was always more to do and so he never left.

Today, he is executive director of Friends-International, the regional arm of Mith Samlanh (‘close friend’ in Khmer), the organization he launched in Phnom Penh two decades ago.

Map Somaya, the first Cambodian to work as a volunteer at the organization in the 1990s, is now the program director for Mith Samlanh. As she explained, the organization’s goal has always been to create a safe environment for street children and teenagers while giving them training so they can have better lives. This has meant providing the homeless and very poor with basic services, ranging from simple healthcare to helping them find shelter, and setting up education programs so children can catch up with school and teenagers can acquire a trade.

In Phnom Penh, Mith Samlanh’s staff in the field and at their center on Street 13 work with 1,500 to 1,800 young people per day, which often involves dealing with their families and siblings as well, Ms. Somaya said.
Friends now has a center in Siem Reap City called Kaliyan Mith, or ‘good friend,’ and runs programs in other parts of the country in cooperation with organizations such as Mlop Tapaang in Sihanoukville, for whom Friends operates the restaurant Sandan as a training center.

The idea of setting up a restaurant training center for street children came from German chef Gustav Auer who, coming to Mith Samlanh as a volunteer in 2000, concluded that the small number of international eateries in Phnom Penh at the time would make it feasible to launch a restaurant where students would train as chefs or in customer service and management, he said.

However, launching Friends The Restaurant was a challenge, Mr. Auer recalled. “We had a very small budget, so we bought everything second-hand: second-hand furniture, second-hand fridge, and everything broke down.” It also was difficult to find basic equipment such as stainless steel counters since goods and products available in Cambodia at the time were rather limited, he said.

When the restaurant initially opened in February 2001 with teams of teachers and students to handle each task, it proved difficult to attract customers as people were conjuring a bleak image of being served by poor kids in a place run by an NGO, Mr. Auer said. But Friends The Restaurant was soon a success, which led Mith Samlanh to open another eatery, Romdeng, with an all-Khmer menu.

Training students often involves much more than just restaurant service skills, said Sao Sokunthy, a former Mith Samlanh student now in charge of service training at all Friends-International restaurants. When young people have had to fare for themselves on the street, living more or less outside of society, they often need to learn everything from reading and writing Khmer to learning to respect teachers, she said.

Moreover, since today’s young people can easily make money on the street by selling newspapers and flowers, begging, or dealing in drugs, it’s not always easy to convince them to spend at least a year training for a job in a restaurant, Ms. Sokunthy said.

“We have to change the young person’s mind…to show them a future, how to think ahead, not to think from one day to the next,” Mr. Auer explained. “When you’re poor, you don’t have the luxury to think one year ahead. You’re just happy to have rice for the next day. So it’s a very challenging thing to do, to make them understand.”

Still, Friends has trained more than 1,500 young people since launching its restaurant training program, and all the graduates have found employment, he said.

The training restaurant Makphet was launched in 2006 in Vientiane. It was part of Friends’ program set up in Laos at the request of the Lao government, which was concerned by the increasing number of children on the streets, Mr. Marot said. A second restaurant is scheduled to open later this year in Luang Prabang. Another one is due to open in Bangkok as an extension of Friends’ programs in Thailand.

In the 2000s, Friends received funding to look into child trafficking in Bangkok, where it was believed Cambodian children were being used for child prostitution and begging, Mr. Marot said. “We went to work with this concept of child trafficking on the streets of Bangkok. And for months, we searched and searched to uncover trafficking but kept finding nothing,” he said.

Such trafficking may have existed 15 years ago, but no longer: Today, Cambodian children and teenagers migrate voluntarily with or without their families in the hope of making money in Thailand, where they risk being exploited, he said. “Using today this old concept [of trafficking] would make us focus on the wrong issue and come up with the wrong response,” Mr. Marot said.

So, switching gears, Friends developed programs for child immigrants, setting up a center on the Thai side of the border at Poipet and working with Thai authorities in prisons where illegal immigrants are sent.

Friends’ Thailand has teams of workers who speak Khmer and Lao so they can communicate with the youngsters and prepare their repatriation, which is the best outcome for them, Mr. Marot said. This involves tracking down their families and making sure the children will be in a safe environment when they return to

Cambodia, a task that can only be accomplished by working in cooperation with other organizations, he said.
Friends also runs the program Peuan Peuan for Thai street children in Bangkok and is about to launch a full program in Burma.

In addition, the organization became involved in Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami and now runs a program in Jakarta, where it is developing emergency responses for the mega city, where even street kids have mobile phones.

Services for emergencies, which may range from a woman about to give birth on the street to children being physically or sexually abused, must be tailored to each region, explained Sebastien Le Mouellic, Friends’ coordinator for the CYTI Alliance—a group of organizations with similar goals in Cambodia, Egypt, Honduras and six other countries.

In Cambodia, there must be a hotline and staff on standby at several locations to ensure a quick response, he said, while in Jakarta, one can start helping through mobile phones and other devices that even street people tend to have.

Adapting responses not only to areas but also to social change over time is one of the biggest challenges that Friends faces, Ms. Somaya of Mith Samlanh said. In the past, Phnom Penh’s homeless and street children lived downtown on empty lots and in squatter areas, she said. But as development took off in the center of the city, they moved to the outskirts. Mith Samlanh is now setting up centers in the suburbs and will offer training programs at some of those locations.

Operating on a regional basis is also part of this adaptation process since development in the region, which will include new road and railway networks, is prone to boost migration of the poor and young people looking for work, leading to drug and other forms of trafficking, Mr. Marot said.

Friends’ ChildSafe campaign is now conducted in four countries and will soon be launched in the Philippines at the government’s request. This program involves working with hotels and the tourism industry as well as tuk-tuk drivers and the local authorities to prevent sexual and other abuse of children.

In Cambodia, Friends has also launched a campaign to make tourists aware that some orphanages use children as excuses to raise money, opening their premises to visitors as if the children were exhibits to be toured. The lack of visitor screening at those institutions not only exposes children to potential child abusers, but is prone to disrupt children’s emotional balance by having them constantly meeting with strangers, Mr. Marot said.

Getting enough funds to care for the poorest children has been far from being easy. In the early years, Mr. Marot did translations and other jobs at night to keep Friends going. He remembers one Friday night in 1996 when he announced at a staff meeting that he was about to drop the project due to a lack of funds. But the following Monday, a call came in: Friends had been approved by Australia’s AusAid for a grant, he said. Unicef and other organizations soon followed suit.

Over the years, Friends has accumulated a number of awards, including the Order of Australia for Service to Humanity in 2002; the Gold Medal of the Cambodian Government for the Reconstruction of the Country in 2005; and the Arab Gulf Fund Award for Fighting the Phenomenon of Street Children last year.

“It’s the kids who make this all worthwhile,” Mr. Marot added. “When the kids pull through…when they get jobs, when one in a restaurant discreetly comes to say hello, that really feels great.”

© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.

Cambodia’s largest port sees 14 pct rise in cargo shipment in 5 months

PHNOM PENH, June 12 (Xinhua) — The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, the kingdom’s largest shipping facility, has seen a 14 percent increase in cargo shipment in the first five months of this year thanks to growing business activities, a port senior official said Wednesday.

During January-May period this year, the state-owned port had received 112,200 twenty-foot-equivalent units, or TEUs (standard- sized containers), up 14 percent from 98,500 TEUs in the same period last year, according to the port’s statistics.

During the period, 419 ships had entered and left the port, up 5 percent compared with 400 ships in the same period last year.

“The growth is thanks to better economic situation in Cambodia and in the world,” the port’s director general Lou Kim Chhun said.

He said goods leaving Cambodia through the port were mostly garment and footwear products, and agricultural products, whilst cargo entering Cambodia via the port were consuming products, autos, construction materials, machinery, steel, steam coal, and petroleum.

The port was expected to list on Cambodian Security Exchange later this year, he said.


Cambodia eyes to become region’s prominent gems, jewelry market

PHNOM PENH, June 13 (Xinhua) — Cambodia has eyed to become a precious stone and jewelry hub in Southeast Asia region in the near future, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said Thursday.

Speaking at the opening of the 5th international gems and jewelry fair here, the minister said that with the fast growing market of over 14 million populations, Cambodia has emerged as one of the most attractive and fastest growing economies in the region.

“Gems and jewelry industry apart from being one of the key trade promotional areas of Cambodia, it is also an industry playing important roles for tourist attractions,” he said.

“Gems and jewelry fairs have been positioned as the most important sourcing platforms in Cambodia, and the country plans to be the prominent gem and jewelry market supplier in Southeast Asia region in the near future.”

He said with the many tax preferential or tax-free treatments extended to Cambodia as one of the Least Developed Countries by many developed nations including the United States, gems and jewelry traders around the region might move their bases to Cambodia to take advantages of their reduced tariffs on imports.

Besides, he said, Cambodia was admitted as a member of the Kimberley Process on November 30, 2012 in Washington D.C., the United States.

The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds– rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. As of November 2012, the KP has 54 participants, representing 80 countries and regions, according to its website.

“As a member of the Kimberley Process, Cambodia will be able to obtain significant advantages to win legal trust in such industry, and be able to attract major investors to establish diamond-cutting factories in Cambodia,” Cham Prasidh said.

He said the gem and jewelry industry would create tens of thousands of jobs for the people, enabling them to acquire specific skills in cutting diamonds, as well as opening Cambodian market to the European Community, the United States and in other countries.

The impoverished country launched its first gem and jewelry laboratory in May last year under the joint venture with the London-based Intertek Company.

The laboratory is a venue to provide quality assurances, product testing, inspection and certification to ensure that all jewelry products sold in Cambodia are of specified quality and standard.

The 4-day fair, opened on Thursday at the Diamond Island Exhibition Center, brought together 78 exhibitors, mostly from Cambodia, Thailand, China’s Hong Kong, and Singapore, Cham Prasidh said.

An exhibitor from Hong Kong said the fair was a good opportunity for his company to seek new customers in Cambodia.

“This is the first time our company displays gem and diamond products here. There are a lot people coming here and they know a lot of jewelry. Hopefully, we can meet some new customers,” Isipro Ibasco, manager of Christelle Limited, told Xinhua.

Local exhibitors said the fair was a chance to promote their shops and also helped the government in promoting gem and jewelry industry.

“My company has joined such event every year, and I hope that the sales this year will be better than that of last year,” San Cheng Hak, manager of Cheng Hak Gems and Diamonds Co., said. “At our shop, all jewelry products are made in Cambodia, but some precious stones and diamonds are imported.”


Disputed land to be returned to villagers

ប្រមុខចោរ លួចដីរាស្រ្ត ម៉ុង រិទ្ធី  ធ្លាប់ជាបរិវារ​ របស់ ឪចោរ ៧ មករា​ ១៩៧៩

ប្រមុខចោរ លួចដីរាស្រ្ត ម៉ុង រិទ្ធី ធ្លាប់ជាបរិវារ​ របស់ ឪចោរ ៧ មករា​ ១៩៧៩

More than 8,000 hectares of land was cut from economic and forest land concessions owned by some of the country’s biggest tycoons and awarded to villagers last month, according to documents from the Council of Ministers.

Four sub-decrees signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen order that land from four high-profile disputed areas be divided among nearly 3,500 families in four provinces.

The land is from controversial concessions in Pursat, Stung Treng, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk provinces — each of which has been involved in long-standing land disputes.

Nearly 2,000 families in Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district were awarded 3,553 hectares from concessions granted to Pheapimex Fuchang.

The company, owned by Choeng Sopheap, the wife of ruling-party senator Lao Meng Khin, has repeatedly found itself at the centre of land disputes

involving hundreds of thousands of hectares across several provinces.

In Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng district, 196 families have been given 1,090 hectares from a concession owned by Kain Co Ltd. In May, 2012, families wrote directly to the premier, seeking intervention in their dispute with the rubber company.

In Pursat’s Veal Veng district, 311 hectares of land inside the Phnom Samkus wildlife sanctuary, along with 2,977 hectares owned by MDS Import Export, was awarded to 835 families. The latter is carved from a 4,373 hectare economic land concession owned by MDS Import Export Co, Ltd, which has been locked in a long-standing land dispute with hundreds of families, who maintain the company has illegally grabbed their land.

And 305 families living in Preah Sihanouk were given 411 hectares in Prey Nop district that formerly belonged to businessman Mong Reththy.

The re-assignment follows months of land demarcation undertaken by cadastral officials working for provincial land management committees on behalf of Hun Sen’s large-scale land-titling initiative.

In May, amid mounting pressure, the premier issued a moratorium on economic land concessions and called for a reexamination of existing concessions.

A month later, he ordered provincial authorities across the country to demarcate land as part of a titling scheme intended to impact millions. (Though wide-reaching, the former initiative has come under fire, with observers noting that a loophole in the moratorium has given the go-ahead to an unknown number of ELCs already in the pipeline at the time of the ban.)

Mong Reththy, chairman of the eponymous Mong Reththy Group, said he supported the sub-decree, and noted that the land awarded was just a fraction of his concession, which totals more than 11,000 hectares.

“The land cutting has a small impact on my company, but it doesn’t matter, because it benefits the residents who farm their lands, and I will continue to invest my land,” he said.

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, declined to comment on the sub-decrees signed by the premier, and referred questions to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Ministry spokesman Beng Hong Socheat Khemro could not be contacted yesterday. Further details on the ELCs could not be obtained from the listing hosted on the Ministry of Agriculture’s website, as the page had been breeched by a pro-Taliban hacker.

Senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, Chan Soveth, said the carving of these concessions was a step in the right direction, but urged that more focus be paid to areas in dispute, noting that much of the land demarcation thus far has addressed only non-disputed territory.

“The action of the government can reduce land disputes, but [in order to do so], the government should focus on land disputes,” said Soveth.

Cambodia’s garment workers to get pay rise for 2013

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) — Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) on Monday agreed to increase salaries for the workers in the kingdom’s garment and footwear industries, according to a press release after a closed door meeting.

The meeting was attended by Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng, Minister of Labor Vong Sauth, GMAC’s president Van Sou Ieng, and representatives of trade unions in Cambodia.

“The meeting agreed in principle to discuss wage increase for the workers,” the press release said. “All trade unions should meet among them to set a unanimous proposal on minimum pay rise for workers in order to negotiate with employers.”

It said the International Labor Organization would be a coordinator for this task.

According to the press release, all relevant parties will meet again on Feb. 26 in order to decide the minimum pay rise.

The wage hike negotiation was made after trade unions repeatedly appealed to the government to urge manufacturers to increase salaries for the workers from the year 2013.

“Currently, minimum wage for a worker is 61 U.S. dollars a month. It is very low when prices of food and fuel are rocketing up, so it severely affects workers’ living conditions,” Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union of Workers, which is the kingdom’s largest trade union, wrote in a request to the GMAC’s president Van Sou Ieng earlier this month.

“To facilitate workers’ difficulties, I’d like to ask the president to discuss and increase the minimum wage for a worker to 120 U.S. dollars a month,” he said.

Garment industry is Cambodia’s largest foreign exchange earner. The sector comprises more than 300 factories, employing some 335, 400 workers–91 percent of them are female.

The country exported garment and textile products in equivalent to 4.6 billion U.S. dollars last year, up 8 percent year-on-year, according to a report of the commerce ministry last week.

The United States and European countries are the major buyers, and other clients are Canada, Japan, South Korea and China.