Cambodia and Hungary on May 27 reaffirmed their vows to strengthen and further develop economic and trade cooperation after a reported dip in trade last year pinned on the global Covid-19 crisis.

The commitment was made at a meeting between Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Ok Bung and outgoing Hungarian ambassador Csaba Ory to exchange views on the status of bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy and trade.

Bung revealed that although bilateral trade between Cambodia and the EU member state rose 32 per cent to $4.43 million in 2020 from a year earlier, that figure declined “slightly” in 2021 before improving this year, registering about $2.23 million in the first three months.

He spotlighted Hungary as a noteworthy EU buyer of Cambodian merchandise, highlighting what he described as the smooth running and fruitful results of two major bilateral meetings.

These were the First Session of the Cambodia-Hungary Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation on January 20-21 last year, and the 1st Virtual Business Meeting between Cambodia and Hungary on February 15, 2022.

Moreover, Bung added, Budapest has significantly advanced bilateral cooperation with the Kingdom in key areas such as socio-economic development, education and cultural matters since the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

As it transitions to a “new normal” of life with Covid-19, Cambodia will seek to leverage trade and investment for economic recovery and national development, Bung remarked.

Accordingly, the ministry and the wider government are pursuing a trade diversification agenda that centres on the establishment of bilateral, regional and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA) in line with legal and regulatory reforms that are tailored to improve the Cambodian business and investment environment, he said.

The ambassador expressed a strong commitment to continue fortifying and expanding Cambodia-Hungary relations to unleash their full potential, especially in the field of trade, as well as encouraging Hungarian businesspeople and investors to explore the trade, investment and tourism-related opportunities offered by the Kingdom.

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post on May 30 that the list of items traded between the two countries was relatively extensive, although individual volumes were quite small.

He said milled rice accounts for 25-30 per cent of Cambodian exports to Hungary, with garments representing a significant portion as well.

Sereyvath also seemed to suggest that Hungary should offer preferential trade arrangements to Cambodia to encourage the flow of goods between the two countries, in light of the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Kingdom’s access to the Everything But Arms (EBA) trading scheme on August 12, 2020, in a suspension that affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.07 billion) of the Kingdom’s annual exports to the 27-nation bloc.

Annual bilateral trade between the two countries has remained tilted in Cambodia’s favour, increasing roughly two-fifths between 2019 and 2020 to $4.7 million, according to Trading Economics.

Cambodian imports from and exports to Hungary in 2020 were to the tune of $1.16 million and $3.56 million, respectively, rising by more than one-half and over three-quarters, the latest figures on the statistics website indicate.

In 2020, “electrical, electronic equipment” accounted for the largest share of Cambodia’s exports, at 46 per cent or $1.64 million, while “pharmaceutical products” made up the biggest proportion of the Kingdom’s imports, at 50 per cent or $0.57873 million.

Significant entries on the list of Cambodian exports to Hungary, “cereals” accounted for $1.23 million, while the categories of “articles of apparel, knit or crocheted” and “articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted” totalled $0.1015 million.