All members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have voiced backing for formal talks on a Cambodia-EAEU free trade agreement (CEFTA), except for Kazakhstan, as Russia smoothens preliminary negotiations, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce.
Comprising five member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, the EAEU is home to 184.6 million people and represents a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $4.778 trillion, according to International Monetary Fund estimates for 2020.
Ministry undersecretary of state Pen Sovicheat told The Post that his ministry, which is in charge of dealing with issues concerning the CEFTA, has been actively working to push for the start of formal negotiations “as soon as possible”.
“Of the five member countries of the EAEU, four have voiced support for free trade talks with Cambodia. And we have the Russian Federation, a major country in the EAEU, helping to facilitate this work as expected,” Sovicheat said.
He said closer relations with the bloc would bring great benefits to the Kingdom, such as the opening of more markets corridors, increased investment from the five countries and access to new technologies, as well as scientific and economic cooperation.
“The Ministry of Commerce strongly believes that talks can begin soon, depending on the consensus among the five countries, with the Russian Federation as a mediator,” he said.
On June 1, Cambodian ambassador to Turkey Kim Heng Meas and his Kyrgyz counterpart Kubanychbek Omuraliev met to discuss prospects for trade and economic cooperation under the potential CEFTA, and separate deals between the Kingdom and Kyrgyzstan on free trade, double tax avoidance and visa-free regimes.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, highlighted Kyrgyzstan’s “strong economic potential” from among EAEU member states.
He said June 1’s dialogue in Turkey demonstrates that the two sides “want to know more about what kind of goods can be exchanged in order to facilitate their domestic production, to boost production in accordance with the needs of partner countries”.
Sovicheat said an official Cambodian envoy would travel to Kazakhstan “in the near future” and present his credentials to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and pay a courtesy call to foreign minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, in hopes that the last EAEU country will climb on board the CEFTA bandwagon.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the EAEU was worth $67.37 million last year, increasing by 18.22 per cent over $56.98 million in 2019, according to data from the commerce ministry.
Of that, the Kingdom’s exports were worth $52.19 million, inching up by 0.73 per cent year-on-year from $51.81 million in 2019, and imported $15.18 million, rocketing by 193.57 per cent from $5.17 million.
Most of Cambodia’s exports to the EAEU are agricultural and textile products, while major imports include tractor machinery and agricultural vehicle parts.