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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trade expo opens as commerce minister predicts strong growth

Trade expo opens as commerce minister predicts strong growth

Trade expo opens as commerce minister predicts strong growth
Ministers Khieu Kanharith (left) and Cham Prasidh at the One Province, One Product Exhibition. Heng Chivoan

Foreign trade could remain largely unaffected by global market instability if Cambodia boosts the production of goods for export, Cham Prasidh says, predicting growth of 9pc

THE global economic downturn has not severely impacted Cambodian trade, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told the One Province One Product exhibition, which opened Monday in Phnom Penh to spotlight locally-made goods.

"The speed of economic growth will be lower, but if there are efforts to produce goods that meet market demand and to tailor agricultural output for the market, I believe that growth will not be much lower - at least nine percent," Cham Prasidh said.

Last week, government officials revised down their growth projections for 2009, saying they expected a drop to five percent after the IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank all predicted a significant slowdown.

The expected dip in growth, though slight, could be mitigated if farmers join together to bolster production of export goods, Cham Prasidh said.

He said the agricultural sector could be a major source of growth through the establishment of a trade surplus.

"The expo is a golden opportunity for rural producers to introduce their products to consumers and investors, as well as a chance for businesspeople to look for business and investment partners," Cham Prasidh said.

THE CRISIS HAS NOT SEVERELY IMPACTED FOREIGN TRADE.

The expo, he said, aims to address export promotion and greater market access.

At its heart, though, is the idea of "one province, one product", where entire communities focus on producing a single, unique item for sale.
Mao Thora, a secretary of state for the Commerce Ministry, said that the expo, which runs through Thursday, would showcase 135 companies from 10 countries, including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and South Africa.

Goods displayed at the expo would range from agricultural products and related services to information technology services, Mao Thora said.

The expo also highlights key Cambodian agricultural exports, such as rice, cashew nuts, pepper, corn, beans, potatoes and silks, he added.

Tuesday's events will include a special forum on business and investment and a seminar and trade meeting for potential business partnerships, followed on Wednesday by a series of cultural concerts, Mao Thora said.

"The expo will provide an opportunity to promote indigenous and forest-based community products - truly Cambodian-made products," said Seng Teak, country director for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, who led communities from Mondulkiri, Kampot, Ratanakkiri and other provinces to display non-timber forest products at the expo for the first time.

"Three main non-timber forest products - wild honey, resins and handicrafts - will be featured at the expo," Seng Teak said.

Cambodia's foreign trade reached US$8.4 billion in 2007, including exports of $4.6 billion and imports of $3.8 billion, according to the Commerce Ministry, which told the Post trade projections for 2008 were not currently available.

"The crisis has not severely impacted foreign trade. Trade with Vietnam and Thailand is still on the rise, and we expect that Cambodia's imports and exports will increase this year," Mao Thora said.

 "But we have not yet calculated current figures compared to 2007," he added. 

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