Cambodia and South Korea will begin first-round negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) on Thursday, another step toward diversifying the Kingdom’s exports following the recent completion of FTA talks with China.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay confirmed Cambodia-Korea negotiations will be held via video conferencing.
“We want to strike free trade agreements with many countries but we must prioritise those countries with the greatest potential to deliver economic benefits from a partnership,” he said.
Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sok Sopheak told a press conference at the Council of Ministers on Tuesday that the negotiations team wants to wrap up talks with South Korea on a technical framework by the end of this year and reach a final agreement early next year.
“The working group will negotiate and finalise key parts this year. The two governments have acknowledged that [an FTA] would prove mutually beneficial,” he said.
He added that the government is also looking beyond South Korea and the possibility of establishing future FTAs with India, Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Japan.
“Our ambition is not merely centred on China. Its official secession from the EU places the UK squarely in our sights. Given that 25 per cent of our exports go to Europe annually, the UK market is vast,” Sopheak said.
At a meeting with Cambodia Chamber of Commerce director-general Nguon Meng Tech on Monday, newly appointed Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) Cambodia director-general Shin Jong-soo said his institution will help push for an agreement.
He said there are strong ties between Cambodia and the Republic of Korea in all fields, especially the trade sector, which has been steadily growing.
Both sides will strive to boost trade volume and enhance business and investment relations, he added.
“We will work together to press for the signing of an FTA between Cambodia and the Republic of Korea in keeping with the trade policies of the two countries,” Shin said.
Meng Tech said a bilateral FTA would cut trade barriers and facilitate access to a broader range of products.
“I hope that negotiations for the agreement will bear fruit and improve economic growth,” he said.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea reached more than $1 billion last year, up more than 36 per cent from $756 million in 2018, according to figures cited by Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting with Cambodian workers in South Korea in February.