Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng on Wednesday called on Vietnam-based European manufacturers to establish operations in Cambodia to increase their production lines and capitalise on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).
He was speaking at a meeting with European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham) chairman Tassilo Brinzer at the ministry.
The plea comes after the EVFTA came into force on August 1 and scrapped over 99 per cent of customs duties on exports in both directions.
On August 12, the European Commission (EC) officially withdrew 20 per cent of the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) scheme from Cambodia. The suspension affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.2 billion) of the Kingdom’s annual exports to the 27-nation bloc.
Sam Heng said: “With the EU’s free trade agreement with Vietnam, European factory owners in the country can also open branches in Cambodia, create new job opportunities and increase productivity for exports to Europe.”
He highlighted the pattern of collaboration between the ministry and EuroCham in the field of vocational training, particularly in the investment sector.
The government is striving to re-diversify the economy in response to severe Covid-19-related disruptions that continue to weigh on multiple fronts – especially employment, tourism and product exports, he added.
“EuroCham is working with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to participate in the implementation of Cambodia’s national policies.
“It persuades its partner investors to invest in Cambodia, and the Kingdom always welcomes investment from its members,” he said.
Brinzer said he would encourage investors among EuroCham’s membership to do business in the Kingdom, especially those operating in neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
He said: “EuroCham will continue to support and work with the labour ministry and provide employment-related technical assistances and vocational training, as the chamber has many partners who can help.”
According to him, the Cambodian government’s openness policies will attract European firms and investors to the Kingdom and generate products for export to the European and US markets.
In collaboration with the ministry, Brinzer said he will work hard to enable additional skills training in the Kingdom.
According to the EC, total trade between Cambodia and the EU was worth €5.6 billion last year, making it Cambodia’s second-biggest trading partner after China. Cambodia is also the EU’s 54th largest trading partner.
The EU accounted for 11.9 per cent of the Kingdom’s total trade, while China accounted for 23.6 per cent.
Overall, Cambodia is the second largest user of EBA preferences.