Roundup: Cambodia-China Trade Stays Robust Amid Weakening Global Demand

The signing ceremony of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement is held via video conference in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, Nov. 15, 2020. Photo: Xinhua.

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia-China trade remained robust amid weakening global demand, thanks to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), a senior official and experts said on Friday.

Trade in goods between Cambodia and China topped 10 billion U.S. dollars in the first 10 months of 2023, up 4.6 percent year-on-year, according to figures released by Cambodia's General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

China remained the biggest trading partner of Cambodia, followed by the United States, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan, the report said.

Cambodian Ministry of Commerce's Secretary of State and Spokesperson Penn Sovicheat said RCEP and the CCFTA, which both came into force last year, had given a boost to this growth.

"With the two free trade agreements, our made-in-Cambodia products have been exported to China with preferential tariffs," he told Xinhua.

Sovicheat said China is a huge market for Cambodia, especially for its potential agricultural products such as milled rice, yellow bananas, mangoes, longans and pepper, among others.

"Thanks to close relationship between our two countries, I believe that our bilateral trade volume will continue to rise throughout this year and next years," he said.

According to the GDCE figures, Cambodia's total international trade volume was valued at 38.66 billion dollars during the first 10 months of this year, a drop of 3.1 percent from 39.9 billion dollars in the corresponding period last year.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia, a think-tank under the Royal Academy of Cambodia, agreed that RCEP and the CCFTA have injected vigorous momentum into the Cambodia-China trade amid global economic slowdown and uncertainties.

"These FTAs have enormously boosted economic, commercial and investment cooperation between Cambodia and China, as they have opened up new market access for Cambodian products to China and other RCEP member countries," he told Xinhua.

"China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects such as the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone and the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway have also greatly promoted Cambodia's trade with China and the rest of the world," he added.

Phea said the sharp growth in Cambodia's export to China demonstrated the strong economic relationship between the two countries.

"Despite global challenges, the trade volume has continued to expand, indicating the resilience of their trade partnership," he said.

Seun Sam, a policy analyst at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the BRI has played a significant role in strengthening trade relations between China and Cambodia.

"With improved infrastructure and logistical capabilities and free trade agreements, Cambodia has become an attractive destination for international investors and businesses looking to expand their presence in the region," he told Xinhua.

"The increased bilateral trade volume has resulted in a more diversified economy and helped Cambodia develop its energy, telecommunications, financial, logistics, tourism and agricultural sectors," he added.

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