Cambodia is preparing a strategic plan to maximise the benefits of implementing free trade agreements (FTA), by prioritising 11 products to enhance the processing and value-add.
The Ministry of Commerce led an inter-ministerial working group meeting on July 6 to discuss and approve the plan as a basis of introducing an action plan for relevant government bodies in a bid to boost trade, investment, and jobs.
The 11 priority products are fish, paddy rice, cassava, banana, Pailin longan, mango, cashew nuts, meat, natural rubber, pineapple and peppercorn. The ministry is also looking at 30 other products which will enhance exports.
The plan includes attracting investors to incorporate research and set an example for other bilateral FTAs.
Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said the main purpose of the strategic plan preparation was to select potential Cambodian export goods, using existing markets to maximise the implementation of FTAs.
“In this sense, the study will show that Cambodia has a competitive advantage in terms of products for export. What Cambodia’s export challenges are and how to address them while attracting investors to invest in processed products and increase value-added,” he explained.
Cashew nut Association of Cambodia (CAC) president Uon Silot opined that the strategic plan is a positive point for cashew crops, which he said have made more gains than paddy rice in recent years.
“The goal of the association is to attract investors to open [processing] factories in our country, so that we don’t need to export raw cashew nuts.
“The operation can increase the value of the produce for our farmers when they sell directly to the factory. This can also help create jobs for the people.
“Therefore, we expect the strategic plan to help stimulate and attract more investment,” he shared.
Vann Rithy, executive director of the agricultural export department of agri-machinery company and mango exporter Angkor Green, said that presently, mangoes are facing market problems due to restrictions from China.
In the past, most of Cambodia’s mangoes were exported to China, Vietnam and Thailand but new bilateral agreements in other countries would open up more channels for the local fruit.
“I hope that the plan will provide more avenues for Cambodia’s exports, especially mango products, through new agreements,” he said.
To recap, the strategic plan was introduced in the fourth quarter of 2020, and a preliminary draft was finalised in 2021. Seven internal meetings were conducted to collect input from relevant government bodies.
The document by the relevant inter-ministerial group will be submitted for final consultation for approval by the Economic and Financial Policy Committee before being implemented this year.