The Ministry of Commerce and a Chinese delegation from Hainan province have agreed in principle to establish a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which officials say could serve as a mechanism to promote trade, investment and economic cooperation between them.

A second MoU between the public-listed Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) and Hainan Free Trade Port is also on the cards.

During a February 21 meeting with the Hainan delegation, ministry secretary of state Sok Sopheak said China has always cooperated closely on infrastructure development, especially in the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ).

Sopheak said trade relations and cooperation between the two countries have grown significantly. He highlighted the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), which has come into force since January 2022.

“The establishment of the CCFTA – and exchange of visits by the leaders of the two countries – has boosted bilateral trade, investment, and economic relations. We will continue to work together to open more markets between us, which we anticipate will lead to improved access to Southeast Asian and international markets,” he added.

Shen Danyang, deputy governor of Hainan province, said the main purpose of the visit is to promote the potential of Hainan Free Trade Port, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025. It will facilitate increased trade and investment between Cambodia and the province.

“Hainan province has agreed on a project to establish an MoU. Hopefully, a signing and a series of exchange visits will be held in the near future,” he said.

Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce (CCC), said the chamber and the Hainan delegation signed an MoU to promote trade and investment cooperation between them, during their meeting on February 22.

“New MoUs, along with the existing free-trade agreement, provide an opportunity for the private sector from both sides to partner on mutual investment projects,” he said.

“During the visit, 38 private companies from Hainan came to seek investment opportunities,” he said.

According to the GDCE, trade between Cambodia and China amounted to $972.7 million last month, a decrease of more than 18 per cent over January 2022.