The Central and Eastern European Business Association (CEEBAC) was formally launched in Cambodia on May 11, in a move to promote business and investment links with the region, and especially to step up shipments of Cambodian merchandise there, while the European market currently accounts for roughly one-fifth of the Kingdom’s total exports.
The CEEBAC joins a growing roster of national chapters under the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), which includes the French Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFC), the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, Nordic Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, the Italian-Cambodian Business Association, and Benelux Cambodia, EuroCham Cambodia noted in a statement.
Speaking at the accompanying launch ceremony, EuroCham Cambodia chairman Tassilo Brinzer lauded the CEEBAC, which he presented as a platform to further reinforce Cambodia-Europe ties, according to the statement.
“Central and Eastern Europe are very innovative European growth regions that have very much to offer to trade, investment and cultural exchange with Cambodia.
“CEEBAC, as the last large chapter of EuroCham, offers an umbrella to 11 more countries within EuroCham’s 27-country strong family. I am sure that it will make itself be heard and become a very important part of our community.
“Launching CEEBAC provides another platform to strengthen economic partnerships between even more countries in Europe and Cambodia, and offers opportunities for more bilateral engagement with support from EuroCham Cambodia,” he was quoted as saying.
Pi Pay CEO Tomas Pokorny, who comes from the Czech Republic, enthused about how CEEBAC could help forge stronger Cambodian-Czech ties, the statement noted.
“Government support is good, but unless you have commercial support from private institutions as well, it’s hard to build economic ties. So, this needs to go hand-in-hand with private-public partnerships. Hence, founding CEEBAC under EuroCham, with ties to both segments, seems to be the right move,” it quoted him as saying.
Pokorny identified tech and engineering as well as food and beverages – “especially dairy, meats, wine and dry goods” – as potential areas for trade between Cambodia and the region represented by CEEBAC. He also commented on Eastern Europe’s reputation for making light and heavy machinery, giving a nod to the medical and aeronautic industries in particular.
The Kingdom’s potential for partnerships is underscored by its favourable geographical location, he claimed.
“Cambodia could prosper as a trading hub for the region and play a much more significant role. For now, most transport routes run through Thailand or Vietnam, but Cambodia is in an even better position, able to connect Central and Eastern Europe with Southeast Asia and Far East Asia as well,” Pokorny said.
Similarly, Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 9 issued a letter addressed to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the occasion of Europe Day, reflecting on the progress made in Cambodia-EU partnerships, despite post-Covid-19 hangovers and the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
He expressed optimism that Cambodia and the EU will remain committed to further strengthening their relations.
“Against the backdrop of the post Covid-19 recovery and the ongoing war in Ukraine, Cambodia and the EU have managed to enhance our partnership by harnessing our collective efforts to strengthen multilateralism, as well as to deliver tangible outcomes for the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting [ASEM13] Summit, which Cambodia proudly hosted in 2021,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, Cambodian exports to the EU in 2022 were valued at $4.045 billion, registering a 25 per cent surge from the $3.229 billion logged in 2021.
In a report issued in conjunction with its annual meeting for 2022, the ministry reported that Cambodia-EU trade came to $4.857 billion last year, up 15.9 per cent from $4.190 billion in 2021, with the Kingdom’s imports from the 27-nation European bloc accounting for $812 million, down nearly 16 per cent from $961 million on a yearly basis.
These figures indicate that the Kingdom’s trade surplus with the EU expanded just under three-sevenths to $3.23 billion last year, from $2.27 billion in 2021.
The EuroCham Cambodia statement provided a “tentative list” of countries to be supported by CEEBAC that comprised Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Of these countries, only Poland has featured on Customs’ (GDCE) provisional “International Merchandise Trade Statistics” bulletins so far this year, which contain data on the Kingdom’s largest trading partners, export destinations and import source markets.
According to one of these bulletins, Cambodian merchandise exports to Poland reached $14.218 million in the January-February period – down 40.3 per cent year-on-year and down 43.1 per cent half-on-half. The Central European country was the Kingdom’s 20th largest export destination for both January and February, the department notes.
Similarly, GDCE statistics indicate that Germany was Cambodia’s largest EU trading partner in 2022, accounting for $1.247 billion, which was up 19.28 per cent year-on-year, followed by Belgium ($731.612 million; up 32.29%), the Netherlands ($596.712 million; 26.95%), France ($542.369 million; up 25.92%) and Spain ($503.778 million; up 38.66%).
Germany was also the biggest EU buyer of Cambodian goods, at $1.084 billion, marking a 23.03 per cent increase, followed by Belgium ($642.014 million; up 26.34%), the Netherlands ($552.626 million; up 25.21%), Spain ($474.764 million; up 39.05%) and France ($423.131 million; up 27.89%).
Combining data published by both the commerce ministry and the GDCE suggests that the five markets – Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain – contributed nearly 74.6 per cent to total Cambodia-EU trade and accounted for over 78.5 per cent of the Kingdom’s exports to the bloc.