Cambodia is gauging about 50 commodities around which to craft a strategic approach on free trade agreements (FTAs) and make the most of bilateral deals with major trading partners, according to Ministry of Commerce undersecretary of state Pen Sovicheat.
Sovicheat on January 8 chaired a meeting on developing the Kingdom’s trade strategy to maximise the potential benefits of the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and similar pacts with other trade partners.
He told The Post on January 10 that a working group had been tasked with drafting a matrix of 50 items to dissect the technical and tariff barriers and preferential tariffs resulting from the CCFTA as a model to study for future trade deals.
The ministerial team has also been sizing up the Chinese market to determine what products it can absorb and what global market demand remains unfulfilled, he said.
“We have major agricultural commodities, including vegetables, fruits, grains, live animals, meat, et cetera, which are our targets for export to the Chinese market, as these products are taxed at zero through the CCFTA,” Sovicheat said.
He stressed the untapped potential of Cambodian goods on the international market, highlighting footwear, clothing and travel products.
With exports accounting for a substantial source of income, he said the government continues to push outbound shipments of domestic products.
He voiced hopes that the study would materialise and be completed soon.
“Other commodities in the small and medium enterprise industry, as well as industrial products in special economic zones, such as auto parts and electronic components, are on the list of products that we are studying as a commercial strategy,” Sovicheat said.
Cambodia and China signed a bilateral free trade agreement on October 12, 2020, which will allow the Kingdom to export some goods to China with a zero per cent tariff rate.
Chinese ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian congratulated the Chinese side on the occasion of the New Year, saying it will speed up its inspection process, ensuring that the CCFTA quickly enters into force.
He said the Chinese side will also hasten the implementation of rice warehousing and drying-equipment projects, which will help the Kingdom ship more high-quality agricultural products to Asia’s largest market.
“The Chinese side will continue to encourage more Chinese companies to invest in Cambodia,” Wang said.
The Kingdom’s total exports reached $16 billion in 2020, marking an increase of more than 14 per cent over 2019, Prime Minister Hun Sen told a live press briefing on December 29, citing preliminary data.
But bilateral trade value with other countries stood at $32 billion, he said. This is down from $36.7 billion in 2019, according to National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) figures.
The prime minister noted that exports of the Kingdom’s seven key agricultural products clocked in at $3.881 billion.
Milled rice accounted for 675,000 tonnes worth $514 million, up 11.11 per cent year-on-year.
Shipments of cassava, cashew nuts, mango, yellow bananas and Pailin longan weighed in at seven million tonnes, 218,884 tonnes, 850,000 tonnes, 313 tonnes and 174 tonnes, respectively, valued at “more than $1 billion”, $288 million, $473 million, $551 million and $57 million.
Meanwhile, peppercorn exports were worth $25 million, he added.