Cambodia and the UK plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of a joint trade and investment forum at an undisclosed date to promote trade and investment between the two countries, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Plans for the deal were announced at a December 8 meeting between commerce ministry deputy director-general for international trade Thol Nara and a UK delegation led by Stewart Clayton, Department for International Trade country director for Cambodia, the ministry noted in a statement.

The ministry noted that the MoU would aim to promote closer ties between the two countries’ private sectors and generate major trade opportunities, as a “tool for communication, advancements in cooperation, and sharing opportunities”.

Addressing the delegation, Nara thanked London for providing preferential trade treatment to Cambodia and other least developed countries (LDC), noting that this has spurred economic development in the Kingdom, the statement said.

Even so, he asked for additional support for Cambodia as it loses its LDC status “in the near future” – this is widely expected to occur by 2030.

Nara commented that his ministry has been implementing trade facilitation initiatives and associated priority tasks, to integrate the Kingdom into the regional and global economies and diversify export markets.

“Trade facilitation” is the general term for the overall framework of measures aimed at removing legal and technical obstacles across the full spectrum of border procedures to help make the international movement of imports and exports cheaper, easier, faster and more efficient and predictable, while safeguarding safety, security, health and other legitimate regulatory goals.

Nara stressed the need to build a strong foundation for growth, diversification and competitiveness in order to rebuild and improve the resilience of the post-Covid-19 economy.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that the UK is a major buyer of Cambodian textile-related items, bicycles, and agricultural products.

Additionally, he said, the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) is able to offset some of the losses incurred from the EU’s partial withdrawal of its ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) preferential trade scheme, a move that affects about one-fifth of Cambodia’s exports to the bloc.

“Because Cambodia benefits from the UK’s GSP, and the UK has a number of trade agreements with the EU, Cambodian goods also enter the European market through the UK,” Heng added.

The ministry reported that Cambodia-UK trade reached $837.66 million in the first 11 months of 2022, up by nearly seven per cent year-on-year. By contrast, the General Department of Customs and Excise put that figure at $902.605 million, which it indicated was a 26.74 per cent rise over January-November 2021.