Bangladesh is rushing to push forward a draft proposal to form a joint trade commission with Cambodia that is expected to be signed this year, an official from Cambodia’s Commerce Ministry said yesterday.
Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said that Bangladesh was close to settling its terms for a trade commission and that this would eventually lead to a bilateral trade agreement that would drop tariffs on potential imports. She added that the Commerce Ministry had already agreed in principal on a commission framework and was just awaiting official approval from its Bangladeshi counterparts.
“We have agreed on which products and items that Cambodia will allow Bangladesh to import and export tariff free and that will be revealed when we officially sign the agreement,” she said. “Both countries are dependent on the garment industry as the main driver of economic growth, so we are looking at ways that trade can complement each other’s growth.”
Sophary’s comments come just weeks after a new push to revive bilateral trade initiatives, with Phnom Penh hosting its first-ever conference that welcomed a delegation of leading Bangladeshi companies.
Trade between the two developing nations has been minimal, amounting to just $6.7 million annually, according to official data released by Bangladeshi Ambassador Saida Muna Tasneem last month.
Bangladesh’s main exports to Cambodia include garments, footwear and leather goods while Cambodia primarily exports cotton, cooking oil and fertiliser.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said that a bilateral trade deal could lead to further garment production despite the countries competing for the same global market. He added that if Cambodia could receive tariff-free leather, it would help bolster the Kingdom’s travel goods sector, which last July received duty-free access to the United States.
In addition, Sou Ieng said that the countries should work to create a labour-sharing agreement that would allow Bangladeshi workers to migrate to Cambodia to fill the garment sector’s skills gap as it produces higher value-added goods.
“Having workers come from Bangladesh to Cambodia would be good for Cambodia because it would support future growth in manufacturing capabilities,” he said.