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Kingdom eyes US trade co-op as GSP renewal makes headway

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Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Buon Sarakmony (second left) and Wallis Yu (second right), the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) director for Southeast Asia and Pacific affairs at the meeting on August 10. COMMERCE MINISTRY

Kingdom eyes US trade co-op as GSP renewal makes headway

Cambodia and the US on August 10 renewed their commitment to further trade and investment cooperation, despite a number of challenges between the two countries that need to be addressed, as the latter pushes to renew a key trade preference scheme for developing countries.

This came during a bilateral meeting between Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Buon Sarakmony and a US Trade Representative (USTR) delegation led by Wallis Yu, director for Southeast Asia and Pacific affairs, held at the commerce ministry, according to a statement issued by the ministry.

Sarakmony commented on the rapid rate of growth in trade between the two countries in the first six months of 2022, despite Covid-19.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), bilateral trade in the January-June period reached $4.817 billion, up 51.75 per cent year-on-year. Cambodian exports to the US rose 53.96 per cent to $4.648 billion, and imports grew 8.73 per cent to $168.222 million. The Kingdom’s trade surplus with the US expanded by 56.40 per cent to $4.480 billion.

The senior commerce official was quoted as saying: “Cambodia has been constantly striving to make the business-investment environment more attractive and favourable to international investors from different countries around the world.”

Yu thanked the Cambodian government and especially the commerce ministry for its inter-ministerial coordination that she said enabled the Kingdom to adopt US vehicle standards and thereby become an “important market” for the US automotive sector, according to the statement.

She also revealed that the US government is looking into reauthorising the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and deciding on the conditions for countries to qualify as beneficiaries.

The GSP provides non-reciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment for certain products imported to the US from designated beneficiary developing countries and territories, which includes Cambodia. However, the scheme lapsed on December 31, 2020 and has yet to be renewed.

Yu asked the commerce ministry to keep the USTR up-to-date with information on trade- and investment-related laws and regulations aimed at improving the investment climate and attracting large long-term US investors into the Cambodian technology market, such as Amazon.com Inc and Facebook parent Meta Inc, the statement noted.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, commented that the US is among the biggest buyers of Cambodian goods, the bulk of which comprise garments, footwear and travel goods, as well as raw materials.

He underscored a number of determinants of exports to the US, namely: demand on the US market, the quality and standards of buyers, pricing suitability, and promptness of communication.

In 2021, trade between the two countries totalled $7.82649 billion, up by 40.4 per cent from $5.57526 billion in 2020, according to the GDCE.

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