Cambodia and South Korea on November 18 kicked off the fourth round of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), which is expected to boost bilateral trade and investment once it enters into force.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay told The Post that the talks would conclude two days later on November 20.
“The ins and outs are not yet immediately clear as negotiations are ongoing, but both sides are bending over backwards to move forward as planned,” he said, stressing the fruitfulness of the first three rounds of talks.
The first round was held in July, the second was held from August 31 to September 2, and the third ended on October 8.
Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth early last month told a closed-door meeting that the two sides are determined to conclude FTA talks by the end of this year.
The latest round would focus on general rules, rules of country, customs clearance, market access, among other issues, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
A South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy official was quoted as saying: “A free trade deal with Cambodia would provide South Korean companies with a wider access to the rapidly growing Southeast Asian market.”
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Pen Sovicheat said the two sides continued to scrutinise over the more technical aspects of the agreement to ensure mutual benefits.
“Our hopes are high that the agreement will help iron out some of the challenges related to tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers [NTM],” he said.
According to him, the Kingdom expects the FTA to buoy exports of processed agricultural products, live animals, textiles, garments and miscellaneous components to the South Korean market.
“We look forward to enjoying accelerated trade flows and improved market conditions following the conclusion of negotiations,” said Sovicheat.
Exports to South Korea mostly comprise of clothes, footwear, travel goods, beverages, components for electronic equipment, rubber, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products, according to data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association (Kita).
Meanwhile, the data show, the Kingdom mainly imports vehicles, electronics, kitchen appliances, beverages, pharmaceuticals and plastic products.
Exports of Cambodian mangoes to South Korea began in January after Korean authorities approved shipments of the fruit.
But Mao Sothea, a sales manager at Kirirom Food Product Co Ltd, a mango processor and exporter, told The Post that the Covid-19 economic shutdown has hurt her company’s dried-mango exports.
She said her company exported about 2,000 tonnes of dried mango to international markets in the first nine months of this year, of which South Korean-bound shipments took a 50 per cent year-on-year plunge.
Still, she voiced her optimism that the FTA will open the door for Cambodian products to flow into the Korean market and breed new opportunities for investors from both countries to find trade partners.
“Considering the plethora of potential products at our disposal such as fresh and dehydrated mangoes, cashew nuts and pepper, I believe that the FTA will help perk up Cambodia’s export figures once we’ve clinched the megadeal,” Sothea said.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea came to $661.15 million in the first nine months of this year, down 15 per cent from year-ago period, data from Kita showed.
The Kingdom exported more than $246.20 million worth of goods to South Korea, down 4.9 per cent year-on-year, and imported $414.95 million, down 20 per cent year-on-year, its tabulations show.