Seeking closer economic ties with countries in northern Eurasia as a way to expand and diversify exports, Cambodia held its first business forum with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on Saturday.
Speaking during the event, Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said the EAEU holds great potential as a market for Cambodian exports and expressed an interest in establishing a free trade agreement with the Eurasian economic bloc.
The EAEU is comprised of four former Soviet states – c, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The union is home to 176 million people and boasts a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.
“We will push for more cooperation. We want an FTA with the EAEU,” Mr Sorasak said during the forum.
He said the EAEU is one of the most important emerging economic players in the region and that integration for member states has resulted in increasing welfare for the people and vast opportunities for the business community.
“To foster greater economic cooperation between Cambodia and the EAEU, we need to bring the private sector together so that they can be the driver for greater economic growth,” Mr Sorasak said.
Tatiana Valovaya, a board member of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), said Cambodia and the EAEU are quickly developing a strong relationship and that she expects the economic ties between both parties to keep on growing.
She said last year trade between the EAEU and Cambodia increased by 30 percent, reaching $153 million, but qualified that trade volume as “very small”. EAEU exports to Cambodia amounted to just $8 million in 2016, Ms Valovaya added.
“We are not just starting a dialogue between governments. We want to get the business communities also involved to boost trade,” Ms Valovaya said.
Lim Heng, the vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said his organisation has already signed a handful of agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoU) with EAEU member states in recent years and has organised several business events to spur trade with the Eurasian bloc.
“The business relations between Cambodia and EAEU continues to improve.
“Today’s forum plays an important role in further cementing that relation and expanding trade,” Mr Heng said.
Representatives from 150 different firms joined the forum, including companies in the tourism, agriculture, healthcare, information and communications technology, logistics, construction and textiles sectors.