Chinese-ASEAN financiers have been urged to consider Cambodia’s agriculture sector for investment while greater tax incentives to bolster investment have also been proposed.

Ky Sereyvath, director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s (RAC) Institute of China Studies, made the remarks at the recently concluded Zhengzhou-Cambodia-ASEAN New Air Silk Road Development Forum in Zhengzhou, in China’s Henan province.

He highlighted Cambodia’s strategic position at the heart of ASEAN, suggesting that it could serve as a pivotal trading hub for Henan, thereby enhancing international trade through capital, goods and service exchanges with ASEAN nations.

“Cambodia’s role as a trade centre could amplify Zhengzhou’s economic engagements with ASEAN. This is evidenced by the impact of Cambodia-China trade on the economic cooperation between the two nations,” he stated.

“We are endeavouring to process mangoes of the highest quality, be it dried or made into jam. It is known that Henan … has many areas suitable for cultivation; however, when it comes to quality, Cambodian mangoes are superior in taste. This presents a golden opportunity for Chinese investors to import mangoes from Cambodia at a lower cost, with the full backing of the Cambodian government,” he added.

He also expressed his hope that China would enable preferential tariffs and, in particular, reduce non-tariff barriers to Cambodian exports, which include chemicals and pesticides.

Hong Vanak, an economist at the RAC’s International Relations Institute, noted that China is a steadfast ally of the country, with strong ties in politics, diplomacy, economy and trade, making it one of the country’s largest trading partners.

“The Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement [CCFTA] and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] have significantly enhanced the Kingdom’s economic and trade cooperation with Asia’s leading economies,” he said.

Hun Lak, a prominent private sector financier in agriculture, noted that there is considerable potential for investment in the country’s agricultural sector, particularly in processing plants, cold storage facilities and agricultural technology.

“I recognise that not only foreign investors should take an interest in this sector; our local investors ought to consider it as well. Earning a profit is one aspect, but contributing to the national economy’s growth is equally important. To attract more investors to agriculture, it is crucial for the government and related stakeholders to enhance the investment environment,” he explained.

Trade volume between the two nations reached $9.099 billion in the first nine months of 2023. Cambodia’s exports to China were valued at $1.059 billion, marking an 18 per cent rise compared to the same period in 2022. Imports from China totalled approximately $8.040 billion, registering an increase of just over one percent from the previous year, as per the Ministry of Commerce.