Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to increase the country’s imports of milled rice from Cambodia and indicated its willingness to purchase other agricultural products from the Kingdom after a free trade agreement (FTA) came into force.
He made the commitment during a telephone conference on bilateral, regional and global issues with Prime Minister Hun Sen on March 18. Xi said that, alongside milled rice, China will import other agricultural products such as bananas, mangoes and longans to help alleviate poverty in Cambodia, and urged the Kingdom to offer more of such goods for export.
“Cambodia needs to make better use of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] agreement in the region, and the free trade agreement between China and Cambodia, to push bilateral trade to a new level.
“The Chinese side will increase the import of high quality Cambodian agricultural products, and establish cooperation that benefits more people in Cambodia,” Xi said.
Hun Sen noted in the conference that bilateral trade between the two countries has been growing rapidly and that major construction projects under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative in Cambodia have been “running smoothly”.
He said that such projects have “clearly demonstrated the achievements of the comprehensive strategic partnership between Cambodia and China”, adding that the building of a “common destiny” between the two countries has “made it clear” that they have developed strong ties.
The prime minister added that Cambodia is pleased to use the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year as an opportunity to “bolster cooperation” in areas such as cultural exchange, economy, trade and agriculture.
He said he anticipated that these exchanges would “serve to deepen and enhance the joint realisation of the Belt and Road Initiative, and raise the comprehensive strategic partnership between Cambodia and China to a new level”.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) president Song Saran told The Post that China’s commitment will be an “important tool” in boosting Cambodia's milled rice exports to the Asian giant.
“The rice federation is pleased and applauds the positive things that the two leaders have discussed over the phone concerning our rice sector, both now and in the past,” he said. “This shows the strong ties our Cambodian rice sector has to the economic sector at large.”
The growth of milled rice exports from Cambodia to China in the first two months increased by more than 56 per cent compared to the same period in 2021, according to Saran. At just over 120,000 tonnes, so far, Cambodia has achieved more than 22 per cent of the 2022 export quota of 400,000 tonnes as stated in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the Chinese government.
He said he expected that the MoU “will be achieved by December 2022”.
Along with the high number of orders from the Chinese private sector, Saran said that “this [rate of export] indicates that the Chinese side is willing to promote our milled rice to the Chinese market, and that the Chinese people are more aware of the quality and quality standards of Cambodian milled rice”.
According to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, the bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and China reached nearly $8 billion in 2021, up 38.36 per cent compared to 2020.