Prospects of a formal initiation of free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) have improved as early talks witness an increasingly positive sentiment, according to Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay.
Comprising five member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – the EAEU is home to 184.6 million people and represents a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $4.778 trillion, according to International Monetary Fund estimates for 2020.
Thay told The Post that completion of negotiations with China and South Korea had motivated the inter-ministerial committees in charge of FTA talks with other countries and economic unions to forge ahead with discussions.
“We have not yet been able to gauge which country would be the first to come through,” he said, listing the EAEU along with the US, the UK, Japan, Mongolia and India as potential contenders.
“If any team ascertains that [an FTA] would be profitable, then that team would report that and request a decision from the government in order to open negotiations” once both countries have consented, he added.
Cambodia and South Korea on February 3 concluded talks for a bilateral FTA, which minister Pan Sorasak and his Korean counterpart Yoo Myung-hee plan to sign in mid-2021, according to a joint press statement.
The two ministers signed the agreed minutes on the conclusion of negotiations over the Cambodia-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) via video link.
Speaking at the ceremony, Sorasak mentioned that the Kingdom was exploring similar deals with India, the UK and EAEU.
“We’ve met with a handful of countries to discuss an FTA. We’re willing to liberalise the Cambodian market for our people in order to enable them to export more goods and improve the trade balance. We’re all making every effort to achieve outstanding results,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) will enter into force this year, pending National Assembly approval on both sides. The two countries signed the pact on October 12 following three rounds of negotiations held between January and July last year.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post last month that the EAEU’s vast population and thriving economy represent a vital target market for the Kingdom’s goods.
Calling for Cambodia to capture a larger slice of the market, Heng pointed out that the better part of the Kingdom’s exports to the bloc comprise of agricultural products and textiles, while imports consist of machinery, tractors and spare parts for agricultural machinery.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the EAEU was worth $67.37 million last year, marking an increase of 18.22 per cent compared to 2019’s $56.98 million, according to data from the commerce ministry.
Of that, the Kingdom exported $52.19 million worth of goods, inching up 0.73 per cent year-on-year from $51.81 million in 2019, and imported $15.18 million, rocketing 193.57 per cent from $5.17 million.