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Asean Affairs  30 November 2010

French influence in Laos, Cambodia remains

By  David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs     30 November 2010

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Recent events in Laos and Cambodia indicate that although France is no longer a colonial power in Laos and Cambodia their trade relationships with the two Asean countries remain strong.

Laos was part of France’s “Indochine” French Indochina empire from 1893 to 1949 and Cambodia was also part of that from 1863 to 1953.

This week a new French-backed bank, the Banque Franco-Lao Ltd. Opened in Ventiane . The opening was attended by Deputy Governor of the bank of the Lao PDR, Mr. Bounsong Sommalavong, French ambassador to Laos, Mr. Francois Senemaud and a number of city’s business community.

In Cambodia, exports to France have increased nearly 40 percent in the first eight months of 2010. This is the result of the European Union’s “Everything But Arms” initiative – which removed duties and quotas on nearly all exports from Cambodia to the EU.

This week there is a weeklong celebration of French culture and economic events in Cambodia. Garments and shoe shipments make up more than 90 percent of total exports to the country, which is the largest single market for Cambodian products in the European Union, although rice exports are also on the upswing.

The European Union removed tariffs on rice imports in September 2009 under the Everything But Arms initiative, after first relaxing duties for most tariff lines earlier in the decade, according to a report from the EU on its “Generalised System of Preferences”.

There are strong historical links, as well as 4,000 French citizens in Cambodia and 200,000 Cambodians in France and 50 French companies have established themselves in Cambodia. In turn, French exports to Cambodia increased by 1.9 percent to US$32.9 million in the first eight months of 2010 over the same period of 2009, according to embassy figures. Pharmaceuticals, baby products, and wine were three of France’s primary exports to Cambodia.

The French influence persists into this century undoubtedly benefitting two of Asean’s poorest countries.


Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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