The Cambodia-China Intergovernmental Coordination Committee will meet on June 16 to discuss the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries and generate ideas about how to restore the Cambodian economy once the Covid-19 pandemic has abated.
Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong announced the new agenda at an internal meeting on Monday with the committee at the Office of the Council of Ministers.
He said the June 16 meeting will be attended by Cambodian members of the committee through video conference. The Chinese committee will be led by State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi.
Namhong said: “The meeting will discuss the past and future of Cambodia-China cooperation and how we will work together to restore Cambodia’s economy post-Covid-19.”
The Cambodia-China FTA is expected to be finalised this month.
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak led a working group meeting in mid-May to prepare policies and strategies to negotiate the FTA.
He said bilateral agreements with partner countries are central to the ministry’s efforts to improve competitiveness and trade diversification and noted that FTAs are necessary to integrate the country into the regional and global economy.
“These deals are aimed at broadening and opening up access to markets for a wide range of exports,” said Sorasak.
Ministry spokesman Seang Thay told The Post on Tuesday that the inter-ministerial committee in charge of negotiations is working on finishing the FTA and that there will be an update after the June 16 meeting.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Hong Vanak said: “I think this debate will boost Cambodia’s economic growth if we can finalise this free trade agreement.”
Although Cambodia is a developing country, he said, it is capable of exporting agricultural products to the Chinese market, including milled rice, mangoes, pepper, rubber and cashew nuts.
Vanak said: “China sees Cambodia as a goods storage facility with exporting potential to ASEAN members. We have to select the essential products for the country’s needs.”
Cambodia’s total import and export volume was valued at $36.7 billion last year, data from the National Bank of Cambodia show.
Exports amounted to $14.53 billion and imports $22.19 billion, a year-on-year increase of 12.7 per cent and 18.6 per cent, respectively.
However, the Kingdom’s trade deficit with the rest of the world continued to widen last year, when it hit $7.66 billion, a 31.6 per cent increase compared to 2018.