Cablegate: Staffdel Gilley Visit Evaluates Usg Objectives in Cambodia


DE RUEHPF #1975 3060721
O 020721Z NOV 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. Kristen Gilley, Deputy Chief of Staff for the
House Committee on International Relations and Jamie McCormick,
Staff Director, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, visited
Cambodia on October 20-22 to discuss bilateral relations, USG
assistance programs, and USAID partner concerns. The delegation met
with the Minister of Commerce on trade and labor issues and National
Assembly MPs on domestic political developments and legislative
issues. End Summary.

MOC Urges Trade Act Passage

2. (U) Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh met with Staffdel members
on October 20, accompanied by DCM, Econoff, and Conoff (notetaker).
Noting the warm bilateral relationship between the U.S. and
Cambodia, Prasidh made a strong pitch to the Staffdel for passage of
the draft Trade Act that includes Asian least developing countries
(LDCs), such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, not just African nations.
Prasidh stressed that duty-free imports would allow Cambodia to
compete with cheaper goods from China and Vietnam. He said that
U.S. imports from LDCs were a very small part of overall U.S.
imports (0.5%), but allowing duty-free access would help the poor in
the LDCs. McCormick commented that obtaining passage of the bill
would be difficult, but perhaps not impossible. While elements in
Congress support the bill, additional backers are needed from the
Ways and Means and Finance Committees. McCormick added that
inclusion of Afghanistan could be an important factor, as the
country is of strategic importance to the U.S.

3. (SBU) Referring to a Labor Advisory Committee decision to grant
a five-dollar increase in the monthly minimum wage for garment
workers, Prasidh claimed that the garment manufacturers' profit
margins are exceedingly thin, only 2-5%. Thus, any increase ate
away the profits. The DCM cautioned that it was important for
manufacturers and labor unions to maintain a positive spirit in
negotiations. A rupture in their relations could have a serious
negative effect on the industry.

4. (SBU) Turning to draft regulations under discussion between the
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and courier services, the
delegation asked that Prasidh urge the Ministry withhold issuing the
regulations (Prakas) until differences between the two sides have
been resolved, and provided Prasidh with a non-paper containing
points prepared by USTR on this issue. Prasidh agreed that it was
preferable to wait until the disagreements have been resolved and
said that he would do everything possible to assist. If the
negotiations reached a point at which there was only one outstanding
issue to be resolved; Prasidh promised to take it to the Prime
Minister for a decision. Prasidh said that he thought the
differences would be worked out, as Minister of Posts and
Telecommunications So Khun is "very flexible."

Legislative Issues; USAID Partners

5. (SBU) The Staffdel also met on October 20 with MPs Than Sina of
FUNCINPEC, Son Chhay of The Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), and Nhem Thavy
of The Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP) at the National Assembly.
Party representatives discussed the inability of National Assembly
to be effective due to the lack of a legislative calendar and
dependence on the RGC to forward legislation. In addition, party
representatives were concerned with the lack of progress on
anti-corruption law, noting that they were still waiting for the
draft criminal code. The MPs explained that they have been informed
by the RGC that the new criminal code must be approved before the
anti-corruption legislation. When the Staffdel inquired about
professional capabilities of the staffing at the National Assembly,
the MPs agreed that NA could use additional assistance on
development of a professional staff. The NA has received some
training and assistance from CIDA and the German government in the

6. (SBU) On October 20, the Staffdel met with USAID and CDC
officers who discussed the particular successes of health programs
on HIV/AIDS and Avian Influenza. After an evening reception and
October 21 morning tour of NEC, the Staffdel received briefings from
various USG partners on democracy building initiatives, human
rights, and political reform in Cambodia. The Staffdel also wanted
to understand F reforms within State and USAID and their effect on
mission effectiveness. Additionally, the Staffdel asked about a
Harvard proposal for an education project in Cambodia. The Staffdel
then attended a luncheon with Ambassador Mussomeli to discuss
mission objectives in Cambodia.


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