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Free trade with India planned

CAMBODIA and India intend to implement a free trade agreement to reduce duties on agricultural products as soon as possible, a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce said yesterday.

The news follows Indian media reports that cited government officials saying that an internal approval process for a scheme to slash levies on “hundreds of [Indian] products” had been completed by Cambodia.

The India’s Economic Times reported that a “notification” would be announced next week.

Yesterday, Chan Nora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, confirmed that an agreement would be implemented but declined to suggest a time scale.

“It is true, but I don’t know yet when we will start to implement this,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of agricultural trade for Cambodia, he said: “It’s really important for our country to have a free trade agreement with India because India needs a lot of agriculture products.

“This is a very good thing for our agricultural products.”

The agreement would form part of a series of measures implemented to boost trade between the Association of South East Asian Nations and India.

According to the ASEAN secretariat website, on January 1 this year the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods agreement came into force after six years of negotiations.

Over time the free trade pact will see tariff liberalisation on 90 percent of products traded between India and ASEAN nations – which include Cambodia. Around 4,000 product lines are set to be eliminated by 2016 at the earliest.

A similar agreement signed with China came into effect in January.

Yesterday, official Indian data showed that its economy grew 8.8 percent year on year in the first quarter, the strongest performance in more than two years, powered by robust manufacturing growth.

The economy was also boosted by better farm output, which expanded 2.8 percent in the three months to June.

Indian President Pratibha Patil is set to visit Cambodia in the middle of this month, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING ELLIE DYER

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