Cambodia Looks To Expand Exports By Courting Eurasian States

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The agreement signing ceremony between the government and the Eurasian Economic Commission. SUPPLIED

Cambodia is aiming to diversify its exports after signing an agreement with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) yesterday, following the first session of a joint working group seeking to expand trade cooperation between the two sides.

The EEC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cambodia last May to set up talks between Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member states and the government on developing trade ties. Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the MoU while in Moscow meeting Tigran Sargsyan, chairman of the board of the EEC.

In the meeting yesterday, five representatives from the member states of the EAEU – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – discussed investment in sanitary, phytosanitary and veterinary systems, technical regulation applications, customs and trade facilitation and export-boosting measures with senior officials from the Ministry of Commerce.

The EAEU controls imports and exports to a market of almost 183 million people.
Tekreth Kamrang, the secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said the meeting with the EEC would pave the way for Cambodia to diversify its exports in agricultural goods and products beyond textiles, shoes and rice.

They plan to target all of the member states of the EAEU and not just Russia, she added. Cambodia exported products worth about $104 million to the EAEU and imported about $11 million in goods in 2015.

The majority of goods exported to the EAEU include textiles, shoes, toys, bicycles and agriculture products, while it imports machinery, cars, medicine and fertilizer.

“To support the strategy of opening to international markets to boost exports and ensure sustainable growth, the Cambodian government is always expanding trade and investment cooperation with other countries both in the region and in the international community as well, including cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Kamrang.

“Moreover, Cambodia wants to increase the trade volume and investment with the EAEU by conducting a joint feasibility study on a Cambodia-EAEU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).”

Kamrang said the joint working group will allow both sides to study potential investment opportunities and work through any challenges that may arise as the FTA agreement is worked on for the next three to four years.

Tatiana Valovaya, a member of the board at the Integration and Macroeconomic of the EEC, said the first meeting will provide a roadmap for how the countries can eliminate trade barriers and boost exports.

Valovaya said trade between the EAEU and Cambodia in the first 11 months of 2016 increased by about 30 percent to $138 million compared with 2015. She mentioned that there was a huge trade imbalance between the two sides and that the majority of trade was between Cambodia and Russia.

This article was originally published in the Khmer Times.