Cambodian officials are eyeing membership of a regional trade body involving China and India as part of efforts to reduce the country's reliance on traditional export markets in the United States and Europe.
Senior government minister Ly Thuch said the Ministry of Commerce was well advanced in discussions with member countries of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA).
"Joining APTA will help us integrate further in the Asia-Pacific region as well as give us more access to the most dynamic markets in Asia," he said, referring specifically to India, China and South Korea.
APTA, previously known as the Bangkok Agreement, is a preferential tariff arrangement signed in 1975 as an initiative of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to promote intra-regional trade through concessions between member countries.
It is open to all developing ESCAP member countries, but only China, India, South Korea, Bangladesh, Laos and Sri Lanka have joined. Members are currently participating in the fourth round of tariff concessions, which are expected to conclude in October 2009. Ministry of Commerce Undersecretary of State Em Sophoan said admission would help Cambodia boost exports. "If we join with APTA, we can cut down trade barriers and open big markets among the member countries," he said.
Marc Proksch, an economic affairs officer in ESCAP's Trade Policy Section, agreed, saying regional cooperation was necessary to reduce Asia's reliance on struggling export markets in the West.