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Commerce chief asks Canada to mull Cambodia trade deal

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Cambodia-Canada trade hit $0.82 billion in January-October, up 26 per cent year-on-year from $0.65 billion, commerce ministry figures show. Hong Menea

Commerce chief asks Canada to mull Cambodia trade deal

Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak has asked Canada to explore the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the Kingdom as soon as practicable to improve trade flows between the two countries.

Trade between the two countries has risen significantly, with $954.82 million worth of Cambodian goods entering Canada last year, benefitting from the North American country’s duty-free and quota-free scheme, he underlined at a meeting with Canadian ambassador to Cambodia Sarah Taylor last week.

Sorasak expressed the country’s desire for Ottawa to arrange trade meetings with Canadian investors who are active in Thailand and Laos, and equip them to take advantage of the potential opportunities offered by Cambodia’s FTAs with China and South Korea, as well as the Kingdom’s membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

He also made the case that Cambodia has seen some substantial reforms that ensure a conducive business environment, with the new Law on Investment as a predominant highlight.

The local community by and large supports Canadian investors and affiliates doing business in Cambodia, Sorasak said. He pointed out insurance firm Manulife and ABA Bank as prime examples, the latter of which he noted has become the third leading bank in the country.

The minister also asked Ottawa to extend technical assistance under the Canadian Trade and Investment Framework (CTIF) in areas such as small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) capacity building, as well as trade and investment matching events and exhibitions that focus on the two countries.

The ambassador said Canada would pursue negotiations for an ASEAN-Canada FTA and look into conducting a feasibility study on a similar trade deal with Cambodia, which she said would conform to trade policy under Canada’s new administration – which began on November 22 – that seeks to increase trade with the Asia-Pacific region.

The launch of formal talks for the ASEAN-Canada FTA was announced on November 17 at the 10th ASEAN Economic Ministers – Canada Consultation, according to the ASEAN Secretariat.

Taylor said she would discuss the minister’s proposals of the Ministry of Commerce with relevant institutions and encourage officials to work more closely with Cambodia to bring and develop specific projects under CTIF cooperation.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on February 13 that Canada was a major buyer of finished textiles from the Kingdom.

He said a bilateral FTA, coupled with the many benefits provided by the new investment law, would draw in more Canadian investors to the Kingdom.

“Cambodia also has a skilled production force and reasonable labour costs,” Vanak said.

In January-October 2021, Cambodian exports to Canada stood at $790 million, up 31 per cent year-on-year from $604 million, and imports were worth $32 million, down 33 per cent year-on-year from $48 million, according to commerce ministry data.

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