ASEAN needs to effectively promote regional trade and investment between member states and members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), urged Kith Meng, president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and co-chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council.

At the roundtable discussion on RCEP, which represents $26.2 trillion or 30 per cent of global gross domestic product, he said trade is important for every economy, therefore as bloc members, key points must be identified to boost regional trade and investment as well as utilise resources effectively.

The discussion, themed “Promoting ASEAN Potential through the RCEP”, was attended by Zulkifli Hasan, Indonesia’s Minister of Commerce, RCEP leaders and private sector representatives, in conjunction with the ASEAN Summit.

Kith Meng and chamber members were part of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s delegation at the summit in Jakarta last week.

According to Kith Meng, the policy of ASEAN is for members to remain consistent and united for the benefit of the bloc.

“The RCEP market is large, however, if we are not able to penetrate the market of big countries, it is of no value,” he said.

The RCEP, an ASEAN initiative, is the world’s largest free trade agreement, participated by 15 countries, comprising 10 ASEAN member states and five Indo-Pacific nations - Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

The multilateral trade agreement came into force in Cambodia on January 1, 2022.

In the first half of 2023, the Ministry of Commerce stated that total trade volume between Cambodia and RCEP members dipped nine per cent year-on-year to $14.8 billion.

At the time, Cambodia’s trade volume with RCEP members accounted for 62.5 per cent of Cambodia’s international trade volume of $23.7 billion.

Of that, Cambodia’s exports to 14 RCEP countries rose 24.1 per cent to $4.1 billion, while imports from RCEP members fell 17 per cent to $10.7 billion.

On July 18, Penn Sovicheat, secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce, said although the effects of Covid-19 have tapered, geopolitical crises, the Russia-Ukraine war and inflation have impacted the purchasing power in major markets.

Having said that, Cambodia is a RCEP member, therefore exports continue to show more positive signs.

“RCEP has significantly contributed to Cambodia’s growth by opening exports to international markets,” he told The Post then.

In addition to preferential tariffs, Cambodia also receives benefits from the RCEP, such as new technology transfers, skills training via foreign direct investment, and job creation for Cambodians.

The free trade agreement, which covers 2.2 billion people, also helped Cambodia’s economy recover quickly after Covid-19.