Trade between Cambodia and the United Kingdom is expected to increase after Britain’s exit from the European Union, according to the British Ambassador, saying that after Brexit, the UK will independently negotiate trade agreements with Cambodia.
Brexit will not result in restrictions on trade between Cambodia and the UK, British Ambassador Bill Longhurst said yesterday after a lecture on the ‘Future of the EU and the UK after Brexit’, held at the Cambodian-Japan Cooperation Center of the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
“I don’t anticipate any major problems. I don’t anticipate that we will be imposing new restrictions on Cambodia in trade as result of leaving the EU,” he added. “We are very much committed to free trade.”
The EU is presently one of Cambodia’s largest trading partners after the United States, accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s exports. Under the “Everything but Arms” agreement for Least Developed Countries, Cambodian exports to the EU receive preferential treatment. Last June, British citizens voted to exit the EU. The referendum roiled global markets, including currencies, causing the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades.
The British diplomat said a free trade agreement with Cambodia will take place after the UK leaves the EU, which will allow the UK to independently negotiate with the Cambodian side on trade. “We will need new trade arrangements between Cambodia and the UK because we are no longer a part of the European single market,” he said. “As a member – for the time being – of the European Union, we are not permitted to enter any new agreements, but that will come after we leave the EU.”
The UK has regular informal dialogues with its Cambodian counterparts and there is a growing trade relationship, Longhurst said, adding that discussions will continue over the next few years.
“I don’t think there are any huge obstacles to greater trade at the moment with Cambodia. Both economies are quite free and open, Cambodia has the most unrestricted trade with the EU,” he said. “I think it is up to the private sectors of both sides to drive for further growth.”
Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said previously that overtures from the UK were welcome, but it would take time before official trade agreements were signed, not least because the UK has yet to formalise the process of leaving the EU. “Right now we are both in the preparation stage,” she said.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Britain rose from about $750 million in 2013 to $800 million in 2014, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Cambodia’s total exports to Britain in 2014 were $56.45 million.