The newly-signed Action Plan on Trade and Economic Cooperation 2023-2024 is expected to promote the utilisation of the preferential arrangements that are granted by free trade agreements (FTA) and similar regional treaties, to boost trade and investment between Cambodia and China.

The action plan was penned on February 10 – on the second of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s three-day visit to China – by Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao.

Ministry spokesman Penn Sovicheat told The Post on February 12 that the plan will be carried out with a focus on the Cambodia-China FTA (CCFTA), the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Implementation will also concentrate on bringing more Cambodian agricultural merchandise to China, as well as convincing Chinese investors to commit resources to projects that could support the export of the Kingdom’s products to their home market, he said.

“I am optimistic that under this agreement, our two countries will set out complementary action plans to take advantage of bilateral, multilateral, regional and global agreements through the World Trade Organisation to increase exports of our agricultural products, and in particular, provide protection to Chinese and Cambodian investors.

“This agreement is made once a year … to promote growth and boost mutual trade and investment,” Sovicheat added.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng highlighted the importance of the action plan for effectively realising economic gains from existing bilateral and multilateral FTAs.

The plan can serve as a roadmap to identify the Cambodian products that could sell exceptionally well on the Chinese market, and bring great economic benefits to both countries, he suggested.

“Moreover, it will also instil confidence among both Chinese and Cambodian businessmen and investors who may be seeking investment partners or business ventures, due to our legal protections,” Heng added.

Speaking at the Cambodia-China Business, Investment and Tourism Forum in Beijing on February 10, the commerce minister said that the CCFTA, coupled with the ACFTA and RCEP, develops the tools to pave the way for the implementation of strategic partnerships and fostering stronger economic, trade and investment cooperation between the two countries.

“Cambodia continues to promote and diversify its exports, and strives to capitalise on existing opportunities and the need to prepare for new market opportunities and further strengthen competitiveness, especially for exports to regional countries, which hold potential for local and foreign businessmen and investors, especially Chinese [ones],” Sorasak said.

At the same event, the prime minister remarked that the “ironclad” and “unbreakable” Sino-Cambodian friendship, established by former leaders and nurtured by their current counterparts, will remain “immortal”, and that the two countries will work together to deal with any obstacles, no matter what.

Bilateral cooperation, through a suite of mechanisms, “has boosted overall trade growth between Cambodia and China every year”, Hun Sen said.

Offering examples of such mechanisms, he listed cooperative development plans, a “Fish and Rice Corridor”, an industrial development corridor to serve as a model for the planned multi-purpose economic zone in Preah Sihanouk province, and support for Cambodia to be able fully participate in the China Export and Import Fair.

Cambodia has newly enacted the Law on Investment and Law on Public-Private Partnerships, aiming to provide non-discriminatory support to foreign investors in accordance with international rules, the premier added.

Cambodia and China are looking at establishing the “Fish and Rice Corridor” in northwestern Cambodia, particularly in the Tonle Sap Lake area, to develop modern ecological agriculture near Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake by surface area.

The special corridor will be designed to facilitate the import and export of fish and milled rice, explained a statement posted on Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina’s Facebook page on February 12.

The project would entail the “acceleration of development plans for modern agriculture, search for digital agricultural cooperation, and support for the modernisation of aquaculture, tropical plantations and other sectors with potential”, it said.

It noted that a protocol on quarantine and sanitary requirements for the export of live aquatic animals from Cambodia and China had been signed, paving the way for exports of these items to the Chinese market.

Multiple sources confirm that the protocol was signed on February 10 by Tina and General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) head Yu Jianhua.

The statement added that Tina and the ministry “will continue to look for new markets for high value-added Cambodian agricultural products, to promote the livelihoods of farmers, agriculture and the national economy”.