Cambodia and China have decided to set up an investment and economic cooperation working group to promote the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as strengthen investment and prop up bilateral economic and trade ties.
The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) said in a statement at the weekend that it and the commerce ministries of both countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the working group.
CDC secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea said the MoU will boost bilateral investment and trade flows between the two countries in line with “the spirit” of a November 15 virtual meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.
“The large amount of capital investment by Chinese investors in Cambodia puts them at the top of the list, and will help spur and boost the capacity of Cambodia.
“And of special note, the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement [CCFTA] will help restore the socio-economic landscape after the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, sees the MoU as an important mechanism designed to address the issues or obstacles that are bound to arise when trade deals signed by the two countries, such as the CCFTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), are implemented.
He said the working group “will also enable both sides to review and monitor the work related to economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, to mend in the eventual case of obstacles or problems”.
At November 15’s meeting, Hun Sen expressed his intent to boost trade relations between the two countries.
The prime minister also lauded China for attaining 9.8 per cent economic growth in the first nine months of this year – a figure reported by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which he said tops the rates logged by most if not all countries.
Li vowed to push for joint mechanisms and work plans between the two sides to draw up and renegotiate quotas on the direct import of Cambodian milled rice and other agricultural goods to China.
According to Ministry of Commerce spokesman Pen Sovicheat, the CCFTA is still set to enter into force next month.
He said the ministry “hopes that the volume of trade between the two countries will continue to grow after this agreement enters into force, and especially that exports from Cambodia will increase further”.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and China topped $10 billion in the first 10 months of 2021, up by 45.9 per cent year-on-year, exceeding the expectations of leaders of both countries, according to data posted on the Chinese embassy’s website sourced from the country’s commerce ministry.