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China’s Silk Road E-commerce plan to draw investment

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Phnom Penh Autonomous Port’s LM17 container terminal in Banteay Dek commune of Kandal province’s Kien Svay district in September. Heng Chivoan

China’s Silk Road E-commerce plan to draw investment

China's Silk Road E-commerce plan will be a considerable driver of Sino-Cambodian trade and attract Chinese investment to the Kingdom, according to officials, businessmen and economists.

Cambodia and eastern China’s Jiangsu province launched the plan at the “Silk Road E-commerce Forum” on June 26.

Delivering the event’s opening remarks via video link, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sok Sopheak stated that Cambodia and China are “good” trading partners in bilateral, regional and global spheres, with bilateral trade increasing every year.

Trade between the two countries grew from $5.8 billion in 2017 to more than $8 billion in 2020, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, rising another 37 per cent to top $11 billion last year, he said, adding that Cambodian exports to China grow at an average of six-to-10 per cent each year.

For reference, Customs data show that bilateral trade in January-May amounted to $4.99026 billion, up 26.1 per cent year-on-year. Cambodian exports to China were worth $519.82 million, down 9.9 per cent, and imports $4.47044 billion, up 31.5 per cent.

Sopheak said: “Silk Road E-commerce is a platform for enhancing closeness, solidarity and economic and trade cooperation between Cambodia and China, which will provide opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises to increase production and sales of their quality and safe agricultural products on promising Chinese markets.”

He said the forum would also inspire business communities to take advantages of the wide range of benefits of the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA).

Sopheak said that strong Sino-Cambodian cooperation “in all areas and at all levels” has led to a variety of positive outcomes and achievements, including a host of deals in the last 10 years – such as those concerning the export of milled rice and fresh cassava, bananas and mangoes to China – that have paved the way for additional trade, tourism and investment partnerships.

“The Silk Road E-commerce Forum is a demonstration of the friendship between the two countries, which will provide great opportunities for Cambodia to export quality and safe agricultural products. [It] is also a key for the achievement and operation of trade relations between Cambodia and China,” he said.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng noted that the e-commerce plan was under the umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which he said would buoy Chinese investment in Cambodia, underpinned by the CCFTA and the Kingdom’s favourable geographical and legal conditions.

Heng echoed Sopheak’s sentiment that the forum would provide impetus for boosting Cambodian exports to China as well as economic growth in the Kingdom.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on June 28 that the forum served to highlight to Chinese investors the investment opportunities available in Cambodia under the BRI umbrella.

With China’s vast population, more opportunities in Cambodia translate to greater economic expansion, he said, adding that new infrastructure projects are in the pipeline for the Kingdom.

Nonetheless, Vanak called for Cambodia to reduce its trade deficit with China.

On the occasion, Sopheak also mentioned a number of the government’s achievements towards economic growth, such as the development of technologically-driven payment systems and the promulgation of new laws on investment, e-commerce, consumer protection and food safety.

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