Cambodia expects bilateral trade relations with the UK to improve following its departure from the EU, trade officials said on Thursday.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay said Cambodia hopes that Brexit will help ease trade talks with the UK and boost exports to its market.

He said this at a press conference on the “Ministry of Commerce’s Update and Progress” which was organised by the Royal Government Spokespersons Unit.

“Before the UK left the EU, all decisions had to be made jointly. The UK had to define the Everything But Arms [preferential trade scheme] in the same way the EU did.

“We hope that Britain withdrawing from the EU will improve bilateral cooperation,” he said.

The UK departed from the EU on January 31, which means that the UK’s course of action is independent of the European Commission’s decision regarding EBA for Cambodia.

Thay said the UK’s market share of the Kingdom’s exports was worth more than $1 billion last year.

The EU is set to announce its decision on EBA for Cambodia on February 12.

In the first three quarters of last year, Cambodian exports to international markets totalled $10.9 billion, a report from the National Bank of Cambodia said.

UK was the fifth largest market, accounting for seven per cent of exports, following the US, Japan, Germany and China.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the UK is a large country with a strong economy and a big market for Cambodia.

He forecasted that goods exports to the UK would steadily increase following its departure from the EU, especially garments.

“Britain previously pledged to Cambodian leaders that even if it leaves the EU, it will continue to further strengthen and increase its trade volume with Cambodia,” said Heng.

He said the British were mainly investing in sectors such as garment factories, footwear, electronics and cigarette manufacturing.

However, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) secretary-general Kaing Monika said garment sector would remain largely unaffected.

The UK is currently the largest market for Cambodian garment in Europe, he said.

Cambodia exported $2.584 billion in garments to the EU market during the first nine months of last year, $584 million of which went to the UK, GMAC data shows.

The EU will initially impose 20 per cent tariffs on garments imported from Cambodia and 30 per cent on footwear, Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth said last week.

“Based on our calculations, we will incur a $500 million loss in exports from the partial withdrawal of EBA.

“The information we’ve gathered is unofficial – we will have to wait and see precise figures from the EU when they make their announcement on February 12,” he said.