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Experts question new trade goal with Vietnam

Experts question new trade goal with Vietnam

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Crab traps on the dock at a seaside market in Kep town. Seafood is one of Cambodia’s main exports to Vietnam. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Officials and experts yesterday questioned the likelihood of Cambodia and Vietnam’s proposal to hike bilateral trade by more than US$2.5 billion by 2015.

The pledge of $5 billion in total trade, made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, last week, reflected a similar Sino-Cambodian trade goal made at the beginning of April.

Last week’s announcement, however, would be from a lower trade base and within a shorter period of time.

Chinese president Hu Jintao has pledged a $5 billion bilateral trade relationship with the Kingdom by 2017. The countries bought and sold $2.4 billion of each other’s goods and services last year.

The figure proposed in Vietnam last week would be difficult to reach without an increase in competitiveness on the Vietnamese side, Cambodian Economic Association president Chan Sophal said yesterday.

“I don’t know for sure whether both countries can achieve the goal. But it could be possible, relying on a lot of factors to push it up,” he said. “We import from many countries. If Vietnam wants to reach the target, it should produce high quality and very competitive prices to gain market share here.”

Cambodia-Vietnam trade reached more than $2 billion last year.

In the first quarter of 2012, bilateral trade increased by 42 per cent and was worth $919 million. Cambodia’s total exports rose 58 per cent to $201 million in that period.

Vietnamese exports to Cambodia accounted for the vast majority of the relationship, hitting $717 million between January and March.

Trade with China was also heavily import-based, leading experts to question the benefits of increased trade goals if that meant no more than a flood of Chinese goods into Cambodia. Kong Putheara, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, said the goal was possible but difficult.

“It would require a mechanism to encourage trade activity between the two countries,” he said. “But both governments have made a promise, so it will be possible. If the governments have taken this stance, they can encourage [trade] and we can achieve it.”

Cambodia’s main exports to Vietnam were seafood, corn, dried tobacco and other agricultural goods. Vietnam exported iron, steel, garments and plastic materials to the Kingdom.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]

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