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France-bound exports rocket

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France-bound exports rocket

CAMBODIA’S exports to France have increased by nearly 40 percent in the first eight months of 2010, over the same period of last year.

Close cultural links, the improving economy and the European Union’s “Everything But Arms” initiative – which removed duties and quotas on nearly all exports from Cambodia to the EU – were cited as reasons behind the export increase.

As the Kingdom celebrates a week of French cultural and economic events, which sees French firms showcasing their wares across Phnom Penh, new trade data have been revealed. Some €70.3 million (US$98 million) worth of goods have been shipped from the Kingdom to France from January to the end of August 2010, up 38.9 percent from the same period last year, according to figures provided by the French embassy in Phnom Penh.

Garments and shoe shipments make up over 90 percent of total exports to the country, which is the largest single market for Cambodian products in the European Union, though rice exports are also on the upswing, according to the statistics.

“We buy lots of textiles, and agricultural exports are getting popular in recent years,” said Alexandra Herbel, general manager of the French-Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, at a press briefing.

The European Union removed tariffs on rice imports in September 2009 under the Everything But Arms initiative, after first relaxing duties for most tariff lines earlier in the decade, according to a report from the EU on its “Generalised System of Preferences”.

French firms are “omnipresent” in Cambodia, according to Aline Perrette, deputy commercial counselor at the French embassy.

Strong historical links, as well as 4,000 French citizens in Cambodia and 200,000 Cambodians in France, have contributed to some 50 French companies setting up shop in the Kingdom.

French exports to the Kingdom increased by 1.9 percent to $32.9 million in the first eight months of 2010 over the same period of 2009, according to embassy figures. And although France may often be associated with high-end products such as wine and well-known restaurants such as Phnom Penh’s Topaz, officials were quick to say the country looked to export a wide range of products to the Kingdom.

“I’m not denying luxury, but we also export a lot of useful products,” said Aline Perrette.

Pharmaceuticals, baby products, and wine were three of the country’s primary exports to the Kingdom, statistics showed.

The embassy is keen to encourage more French companies to invest and trade with the Kingdom, but described the main challenge as finding reliable information on potential partners and the methods of doing business. As for trade, the embassy official wrote last week that the main questions from French suppliers regard intellectual property protection and payment.

The French trade agency also publishes reports on various industries in Cambodia, she said, and “wine and cosmetics are of course usually the most popular”.

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