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Kingdom, East Timor renew trade, investment vows

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn (right) meets his East Timorese counterpart Adaljiza Magno via video link on Thursday. FOREIGN MINISTRY

Kingdom, East Timor renew trade, investment vows

Cambodia and East Timor on February 25 reaffirmed their commitment to deeper trade and investment ties in a bid to increase bilateral trade, while progress on a deal to export the Kingdom’s milled rice to the ASEAN candidate remains stalled.

The pledge was made at a meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and his East Timorese counterpart Adaljiza Magno via video link, the ministry said in a February 26 press statement.

Sokhonn said in the statement that the two sides discussed bilateral issues in the regional and international contexts that are in the common interest, and agreed to strengthen and expand cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, education and human resource development.

“The two foreign ministers acknowledged that trade between the two countries remains limited and agreed to lobby for interested parties on both sides to pursue existing cooperation agreements between the two countries’ chambers of commerce and explore possibilities of increasing bilateral economic and business activities,” he was quoted as saying.

Trade between Cambodia and East Timor is valued at just $300,000 per annum, ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told online news portal Fresh News.

Cambodia exported $212,880 worth of merchandise to East Timor in 2018, and imported $5,300, according to a report by online platform Trading Economics, extracting data from the UN International Trade Statistics Database (UN COMTRADE).

The statement said the two foreign ministers encouraged the relevant authorities of both sides to fast-track talks on three memorandums of understanding – tourism cooperation, general cooperation, as well as trade and technical cooperation on a National Transportation Centre.

In June last year, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said at a meeting with East Timorese ambassador to Cambodia Ermenegildo “Kupa” Lopes that the Kingdom “has already prepared 30,000 tonnes of rice for export, and we ask the East Timorese side to evaluate the ins and outs of the plan and get back to us with its feedback”.

And at an April 17 meeting with the Green Trade Company, under the commerce ministry, and the Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF), Lopes proposed a plan for the Kingdom to start exporting rice to East Timor to curb food shortages due to Covid-19, but did not specify an amount.

Meanwhile, Cambodia exported a total of 690,829 tonnes of milled rice last year, valued at nearly $539 million, an increase of 11.40 per cent in volume compared to 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Six ASEAN countries imported 86,899 tonnes of milled rice from the Kingdom, accounting for a 12.58 per cent share of the total.

Cambodia and East Timor have consistently vowed to broaden bilateral trade and investment relations for the benefits of the two countries and peoples.

Cambodia was the first ASEAN member to support East Timor’s bid to join the 10-nation bloc, which it announced in 2011. Membership would dramatically boost its economy, trade and investment.

East Timor imported $597 million worth of goods in 2019, soaring 27 per cent from $470 million in 2018, reported Portugal’s Lusa News Agency, citing data from the country’s Ministry of Finance.

Of this, 37.9 per cent came from Indonesia, 16.2 per cent from Hong Kong, 14.6 per cent from Singapore and 14.4 per cent from mainland China, the ministry’s General Directorate of Statistics said in its annual External Trade Statistics Report 2019.

Portugal, the country’s former colonial power, was 14th on the list, exporting $5.4 million worth of goods, Lusa reported.

East Timor mainly imported fuel – accounting for around 25 per cent of the total – followed by vehicles, cereals, machinery, beverages and iron.

The country exported an all-time record of $182.3 million worth of goods in 2019 since it gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, with crude oil included in the figure for the first time last year.

Nearly half of all shipments went to Singapore, with the next largest markets being Malaysia, Japan and mainland China.

East Timor exported more than 7,000 tonnes of coffee (its main export) last year, worth $18.32 million, of which about half went to Indonesia, according to Lusa.

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