COMMERCE Ministry officials have travelled to Kunming, China, hoping to ink export agreements on everything from agricultural goods to garments, government sources said.
Held from Saturday until Wednesday, the Kunming event is one of the world's largest trade fares, and the Cambodian government says it views it as an important opportunity to boost exports.
"We have five stands to show our products and services, and we have had a lot of success generating business from this fair in the past," said Sok Darith, deputy director of the Trade Promotion Department.
The exhibition takes place every year and features products from around the world.
"The exhibition is a part of a trade effort to attract Chinese investors to our country - that is good for us. The government is working hard to improve the quality of our products to appeal to the international market," said Nguon Meng Tech, director general at the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce.
He said the Kingdom's entrepreneurs still need to build knowledge and technology to tap international markets.
"So far, Chinese products are struggling to compete with imported goods from regional competitors like Vietnam and
Thailand," he said. "I hope that we will gain more market share in China because we are working very hard to upgrade the quality of our products and promote agricultural products as well."
The Ministry of Commerce‘s 2008 report stated that Cambodia exported $4 billion in goods worldwide last year.
We have had a lot of success generating business from this fair in the past.
The Economist Intelligence Unit said in its April outlook for Cambodia that total exports of goods and services were forecast to fall 8.8 percent this year.
"Merchandise exports will contract in 2009, mainly owing to the poor outlook for overseas sales of garments, which account for over 70 percent of total export revenue," it said.
Mona Tep, director of the Garment Industry Productivity Centre (GIPC), said the delegation was looking for trade and investment opportunities, but that the priority was to raise the profile of the garment sector and to better understand the needs of buyers "to determine strategic actions for the industry to take".
The delegation is due back on Thursday and was expected to report its findings at a GIPC-organised garment industry conference Friday.
Roger Tan, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said the delegation would push Cambodia's involvement in the International Labour Organisation's Better Factories initiative, which calls for more orders in exchange for better conditions in factories.
But Tan said the benefits of the initiative had failed to materialise. "Better Factories is supposed to be the brainchild of buyers who want compliance and who want core standards, but then their business is going to countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan and Vietnam, which don't have this Better Factories program," he said.