Cambodia and Belarus are keen to boost trade and economic cooperation, as a new report revealed that the Eastern European country did not import any Cambodian goods in the first half of this year.

The affirmation came during a meeting between Cambodian ambassador to Vietnam Chay Navuth and his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Borovikov – who is also the non-resident ambassador for the Kingdom – in Hanoi on July 28, where both sides pledged to enhance relations and further promote trade and economic cooperation.

Ministry of Commerce secretary of state and spokesman Seang Thay confirmed to The Post that Cambodia does not plan to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with Belarus in the foreseeable future, beyond the FTA currently being discussed between the Kingdom and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which comprises Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

He argued that a separate pact with Belarus would not appreciably improve economic cooperation or provide significant additional avenues to widen markets, simplify customs procedures, or otherwise support trade facilitation.

“Trade facilitation” is the general term for the overall framework of measures aimed at removing legal and technical obstacles across the full spectrum of border procedures to help make the international movement of imports and exports cheaper, easier, faster and more efficient and predictable, while safeguarding safety, security, health and other legitimate regulatory goals.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng said that building up relations with the EAEU would benefit all countries involved and would help offset the losses incurred from the loss of preferential trade arrangements. He cited the EU’s 2020 partial withdrawal of its “Everything But Arms” trade scheme as a prime example.

He said negotiations for an FTA with the EAEU are “a good step for Cambodia to find a good market for its products”, adding that the Kingdom needs these countries’ modern agricultural practices and technologies to better orient the Southeast Asian nation’s production to meet market demand.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that Cambodian imports from Belarus in the first half of 2022 were worth “more than $1.8 million”, representing a 35.46 per cent drop year-on-year. There were no formal exports to the Eastern European country during the period, it added.