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ASEAN free trade deal set to boost China ties

ASEAN free trade deal set to boost China ties

091117_07
Shanghai Construction Co continues work Saturday on a new bridge spanning the Tonle Sap river in Kandal province.

Chinese delegation says it will urge firms to raise trade and investment ties with Kingdom as ASEAN agreement kicks in

ACHINESE delegation said Monday it would urge firms in the region’s fastest-growing economy to increase Cambodian trade and investment with the introduction of the ASEAN-China free trade zone from January 1.

Talking Monday at a seminar in Phnom Penh on bilateral trade between the two countries, Yu Ping, vice chairman of the Chinese Council for the Promotion of International Trade, who led the delegation, said there remained big business opportunities in the Kingdom particularly in energy, agriculture, tourism, telecommunications and garments.

“I believe that investment and trade between China and Cambodia will reach another level,” he said, citing the new free trade area and the Kingdom’s stable political situation.

Chinese investment in the Kingdom has dropped sharply this year as the economic crisis slowed construction projects, and firms from the world’s third-largest economy have sought much smaller developments.

In the first nine months of 2008, Chinese investment in Cambodia hit a record US$3.94 billion, Centre for the Development of Cambodia figures showed, compared with just $339 million during the same period this year.

China was the biggest foreign investor in the Kingdom last year, representing more than 40 percent of the total number of approved investments.
Sun Weiren, trade counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, said Monday that over 200 companies from China had invested in Cambodia in 2008.

Cambodian government officials acknowledged Monday that Chinese trade and investment would be down this year due to the economic crisis.

Trade between the Kingdom and mainland China remains muted at just $794 million over the past two years, significantly lower than that with neighbours Thailand and Vietnam, which each traded more than $1 billion in goods with the Kingdom last year alone.

By contrast, trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong, a Chinese Special Administrative Region, reached nearly $500 million in the first nine months of 2008 alone.

Commerce Ministry reports showed Monday that Beijing permitted 418 categories of Cambodian goods to enter China duty free in the past year.
“China is Cambodia’s best partner in terms of trade and investment cooperation,” Pan Sorsak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Monday.

Kith Meng, CEO of Royal Group and chairman of Cambodia’s Chamber of Commerce, said at Monday’s forum that Cambodia remained a good bet for investment due to its rapid economic development.

“I believe that Chinese companies will convert their research on Cambodia into real business as they have been encouraged to do so by the Chinese government in the future,” he told delegates.

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