Hunt down more overseas trade, demands Prime Minister Hun Sen


Cambodian businesses must urgently seek more external trade particularly in the agricultural sector, after a call by Prime Minister Hun Sen that it is essential for the security and future of the economy.

This comes as six documents were signed on Sunday between the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhonn, also deputy PM, at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace which was witnessed by Mr Hun Sen.

These documents included: Handover Certificate of Humanitarian Demining Materials to the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, the Cooperation Agreement on Hospitals Counterpart Support between the National Health Commission of China and the Ministry of Health of Cambodia and the Handover Certificate of Anti-pandemic Supplies between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The Chinese minister also gave grant aid of $270 million but its purpose is unclear.

Wang Yi reaffirmed China’s support for the agricultural sector, saying: “China will import more agricultural produce from Cambodia for the benefit of the Cambodian farmers.”

Mr Hun Sen raised the idea on the direct export of Cambodian agricultural produce such as Pailin longan to the Chinese market, which has an annual production volume of 200,000 tonnes.

China is the second-largest economy in the world behind the United States and so it benefits Cambodia greatly to have it as close allies, although many economists argue that it is dangerous to rely on just one market alone because any breakdown in relations could affect exporters in the country.

American Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Galliano told Khmer Times yesterday: “Although there has been much attention and prominence paid to the bilateral Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement, China although one of the fastest growing economies and markets in the world, is just one market and has its limitations.

“The nation that is the largest importer of bananas, and second in mangoes, in the world is the United States, which imports $2.8 billion per year… 18 percent of the total imported.” He continued: “Belgium, Russia, Japan and Germany are ahead of China for importation of bananas with them being sixth.

“The bilateral trade relationship between Cambodia and the US  surged to 33 percent and $3.8 billion in the first half of 2021, despite the severe impact of the pandemic on the global economy and international trade and, although the US has historically been one of the world’s largest and dominant food producers, as a country it is second only to China as the largest single country agricultural produce importer. This is a huge market opportunity for Cambodia.”

Galliano is showcasing an agricultural webinar titled “Agricultural Trade and Investment in the Kingdom of Cambodia” at 10am on Sept 21.

Along with the upcoming free trade agreement coming into force with China, there is a free trade agreement with all ASEAN members and Australia and New Zealand that has been in place since January 2010 and ensures tariff-free movement of 90 percent of goods traded between the signatories. There is also an agreement with South Korea that was due to be signed in the middle of the year but because of Covid-19 it has been put on hold.

Yesterday, Cambodia also made a request to China specifically to buy more of its agricultural products.

The request was made by Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister, in a meeting with  China’s Wang Yi, who is also co-chair of the China-Cambodia Intergovernmental Coordination Committee in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia has listed longan, durian, pepper, and palm sugar as potential agricultural products for exports to China, Namhong said.

In the seventh Asean-China ministerial meeting on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Cooperation held yesterday, Cambodia Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon appealed to China’s Wang Lingjun, deputy minister of General Administration of Customs China, to accelerate the valuation in each process of the matter.

“Improving the phytosanitary nature of our agricultural products will bring Cambodian products to a standard that can be exported to international markets in the future,” Lim Heng, deputy president of Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday.

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