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Cambodia, EEC put free trade on agenda

Cambodia, EEC put free trade on agenda

Officials from Cambodia and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday issued a statement affirming commitments to increasing bilateral trade made last year, and agreed to work toward a possible free trade agreement.

Tekreth Kamrang, secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce, said during the first session of a joint working group between the two economies that one of the priorities of any future agreement would be to drop tariffs rates for certain goods.

“This is the first step toward discussing the details of a free trade agreement and we will now work on a joint feasibility study to explore the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement,” she said. “It might take about three to four years for both parties to work through and reach an official agreement.”

Last May, Prime Minister Hun Sen travelled to Russia and signed a memorandum of understanding with the EEC to develop relations with member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the controlling body of the EEC.

The EAEU is composed of five member states, made up of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.Rice and garments are Cambodia’s main exports to Russia, the largest member of the EAEU, according to Kamrang.

Tatiana Valovanya, a member of the board for integration and macroeconomics of the EEC, said after the signing ceremony that bilateral trade between Cambodia and the EAEU reached $138 million during the first 11 months of last year, a 30 percent year-on-year increase. However, she noted that the majority of that trade was shipments from Cambodia to Russia.

“We mostly import goods from Cambodia but we export very little,” she said. “We have a huge imbalance, but we are very much interested in increasing our exports and we can provide machinery, equipment, mineral resources, fertilisers, or other things.”

Following the meeting, officials of both countries agreed to organise a second session for the working group to be held in Moscow in 2018.

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