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PHNOM PENH – Cambodia and Laos have opened negotiations to ease the transportation of Cambodian agricultural products to China through Laos, in a move to find alternative routes to the existing ones, which go through Vietnam or Thailand.
The project was brought to the table on July 24, during a meeting between three Chinese companies, whose names were not made public, and the Cambodian Cashew Association.
Kong Vimean, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, who has direct knowledge of the meeting, said that the Chinese investors have requested the ministry to conduct a legal study to allow Cambodian products to be transported to China via Laos.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is also part of the talks.
“Transportation procedures through Vietnam and Thailand make land exports to China complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Consequentially, the Chinese companies requested the relevant ministry to carry out a legal study so that they could purchase agricultural products from Cambodia and import them via Laos,” said Vimean.
While the legal procedures of the project are still being studied, the new trade route has already been determined.
It will depart from Phnom Penh and go to the Lao border via Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie, and Stung Treng provinces. Once in Laos, Cambodian products will be transported to China by road and train, using the newly-built high-speed train which connects the capital city of Vientiane to Kunming, in Yunnan.
If the trade route is successful, Vimean expects that Cambodia's agricultural exports to the Chinese market will be easier and less expensive.
Even though the discussions on finding alternatives to Thailand and Vietnam originally started after a meeting with the Cambodian Cashew Association, the Lao route will likely be used for most of Cambodia’s agricultural exports to China, which comprise mango, durian, cashew nuts, pineapple, paddy rice, and rice.
The ministry’s spokesperson said that trade facilitation should not be difficult as Cambodia, China, and Laos are all members of the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation, a multilateral platform for cooperation between the Mekong countries. In China, the Mekong River goes by the name Lancang River.
If other Chinese companies want to use the same trade route in the future, the Transportation Ministry will help facilitate the procedures to support the Cambodian agricultural sector, Vimean said.
Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Te Chhaysinh for Cambodianess.