Thirty-one Cambodian tariff lines – mostly agricultural products – now carry the zero rate to neighbouring Vietnam for 2021-2022, the Ministry of Commerce announced on March 25.

This comes as the Bilateral Trade Facilitation Agreement for 2021-2022 was formally ratified after the completion of internal procedures, with retroactive benefits for exports, the ministry said.

The pact was reached by a 18th Cambodia-Vietnam Joint Commission meeting on December 22.

The ministry invited exporters to apply for the Co Form S – available on its website – to ship goods of the tariff lines to Vietnam.

It also called on exporters who want to ship milled rice or dried tobacco leaves duty-free this year to specify the desired amount to the Export-Import Department under the ministry’s Trade Support Services General Directorate by May 26.

Cambodia and Vietnam inked the trade-facilitation agreement in October 2016 to drop import tariffs on dozens of products in an effort to boost bilateral trade and have renewed it every two years since. The goods covered in the deal, however, are determined on a yearly basis.

Pann Chantrea, owner of Thorn Chea Rice Mill in Tbong Khmum province’s O’Reang-ou district, told The Post that the renewed agreement will boost the price of paddy, create a strong market for Cambodian farmers and improve their livelihoods to another level.

“It’ll help keep the prices of Cambodian farmers’ paddy more competitive because Vietnamese traders venture to buy at higher prices,” she said.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said the agreement will further reinforce trade ties between the two countries.

“It will be mutually beneficial to trade relations and boost Cambodia’s economic growth,” he said.

He noted that Vietnam and Thailand are indispensable markets for Cambodia’s agricultural products.

“It’s wonderful news that we’ll be able to export duty-free into Vietnam. The bulk of our agricultural products are exported to Vietnam and Thailand, and without these two as gateways, our crops would saturate their market, given that the private sector in the country lacks the capital to buy agricultural products for storage,” Heng said.

Vietnam will continue to provide duty-free quotas on 3,000 tonnes of dried tobacco leaves and 300,000 tonnes of milled rice this year as part of the agreement, according to ministry spokesman Seang Thay.

The Kingdom exported 1,377 tonnes of dried tobacco leaves to Vietnam last year valued at $4,197,500, down 34.37 per cent by volume from 2,098 tonnes in 2019, according to data from the ministry.

Cambodia’s total exports to Vietnam showed positive signs in 2020, even as the Covid-19 pandemic triggered tighter border control over fears of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Trade between the Kingdom and Vietnam was worth $3.020 billion in 2020, inching down 1.1 per cent from $3.054 the previous year, according to Ministry of Commerce statistics.

Cambodia exported $385.79 million worth of goods to Vietnam in 2020, surging 14.88 per cent from $335.82 million in 2019, and imported $2.634 billion, down 3.10 per cent from $2.718 billion.

The Kingdom’s trade deficit with Vietnam reduced to $2.248 billion, marking a nearly six per cent drop from $2.382 billion in 2019.