Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiaobao, have agreed to further boost economic cooperation between the two countries, including a new target of US$2.5 billion in bilateral trade for 2012.
The two premiers met at the 8th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, China, on Thursday, where they discussed plans to increase trade and investment between the Kingdom and China, according to Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, who briefed reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport upon Hun Sen’s return on Friday afternoon.
Part of those discussions included the aim of increasing trade between the two countries to $2.5 billion next year, up from an expected $2 billion this year, Cham Prasidh said.
Total trade reached $1.44 billion in 2010.
The commerce minister pointed to specific segments of the Cambodian economy that would help to reach that target.
“We are seeing that agriculture products such as milled rice and garment-textile products are very important to boost Cambodia’s exports to China,” he said.
At the same time, Cham Prasidh noted that Wen Jiaobao promised to encourage further investment by Chinese companies in the Kingdom.
Chinese investment in Cambodia in 2010 was $694 million, the biggest of all of Cambodia’s investors, he said.
Hun Sen also met with the management of the China Development Bank, as well as the governor of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to Cham Prasidh. The prime minister visited the China-ASEAN Expo on Friday morning, he said.
But despite the discussions, Cham Prasidh said that no official deals were signed with China. Instead, the emphasis was on building closer political and economic ties, he said.
Cham Prasidh also said Hun Sen asked China for a $500 million loan specifically targeted at infrastructure projects and irrigation systems, to which Wen Jiaobao agreed in principle.
University of Cambodia business and economic lecturer Chheng Kimlong said the irrigation systems specifically would help to develop the Cambodia economy, as agriculture is a key driver of growth.
“If we can get loans from China to develop irrigation systems, our rice production will increase significantly and the Cambodian economy will grow very fast,” he said.
Chheng Kimlong said the premiers’ goal of $2.5 billion in bilateral trade was possible given the strong ties between China and Cambodia.
He noted a promise from China to increase its imports of Cambodian garment and textile goods, in addition to agricultural products.
“China is a very large potential market for Cambodia,” he said, expressing concern that Chinese orders could be large enough to outpace the Kingdom’s ability to supply that market.