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Cambodia looks to increase trade with Myanmar in agri-products

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Commerce minister Pan Sorasak (second right) meets with Myanmar ambassador to Cambodia Thit Linn Ohn (second left) at his ministry on July 14. MOC

Cambodia looks to increase trade with Myanmar in agri-products

Cambodia asked Myanmar on July 14 to look into stepping up purchases of some of the Kingdom’s most important agricultural products, in a bid to drive up bilateral trade, according to the commerce ministry.

The Kingdom also invited players based in ASEAN’s westernmost country to invest in the different phases of the commodities’ value chains and stimulate exports of the items to their home market or third countries, the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on July 15.

Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak made the request at a meeting with Myanmar ambassador to Cambodia Thit Linn Ohn at the ministry on July 14, according to the statement.

Although leaving the door open for more suggestions, Sorasak recommended Myanmar mull over the prospect of buying more Cambodian mangoes, dried bananas, avocados, cashew nuts, sweet potatoes, chillies, sesame seeds, palm sugar and longan – a fruit of the soapberry family, which also includes lychees and rambutan.

The minister also asked interested Myanmar-based entities to examine the business and investment potential offered by Cambodia, as well as the government’s strategy to rehabilitate and develop the economy, which he said is expected to grow by 6.6 per cent next year and seven per cent in 2024.

Sorasak briefed the delegation on the Covid-19 situation in Cambodia and the socio-economic context. The minister also discussed the Kingdom’s 19 Priority Economic Deliverables (PED) under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Pillar as the bloc’s chair for 2022, and asked for Myanmar’s support to ensure a successful chairmanship.

The ambassador expressed his commitment to strengthening and expanding trade cooperation between the two countries, and vowed to bring the minister’s requests to Myanmar’s leadership, according to the statement.

Thit Linn Ohn voiced enthusiasm about a forthcoming Cambodia-Myanmar Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTA), and asked the Kingdom to brainstorm feasible new ideas to encourage and protect investment between the two countries as well as promote cooperation in other important areas.

On May 18 in Indonesia, leaders of Cambodia’s commerce ministry and the investment ministry appointed by Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council met to expedite the drafting of two major agreements: the DTA and a Cambodia-Myanmar investment agreement.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng told The Post at the time that the two agreements would facilitate trade between the two countries, which, in spite of Myanmar’s continued battle with Covid-19 and its internal political crisis, would be beneficial to the two countries.

“Although the trade volume between Myanmar and Cambodia is still limited, this agreement will help boost trade between Cambodia and Myanmar,” he said.

“As ASEAN members, we and Myanmar have always facilitated trade with each other. So if these two agreements materialise, especially the agreement on avoiding double taxation, it will be easier for investors in both Cambodia and Myanmar.”

According to a commerce ministry report, bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and Myanmar “in the three years prior to the Covid-19 crisis” totalled just $20 million.

Annual bilateral trade between the two countries has remained tilted in Myanmar’s favour, increasing slightly more than twofold between 2019 and 2020 to $28.2 million, according to Trading Economics.

Cambodian imports from and exports to Myanmar in 2020 were to the tune of $24.93 million and $3.27 million, respectively, the latter of which dipped marginally from 2019.

The latest figures on the statistics website indicate that in 2020, “miscellaneous chemical products” accounted for nearly $0.586 million or about 17.9 per cent of Cambodia’s exports, while “tobacco and manufactures [sic] tobacco substitutes” made up $22.22 million or over 89 per cent of the Kingdom’s imports.

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