The Star | 30 January 2022
Cambodia and UAE keen to set up working group for free trade agreement review
PHNOM PENH, Jan 30 (Phnom Penh Post/ANN): Cambodia and the UAE have agreed to set up a working group to study the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to boost trade and investment.
The plan was revealed during a bilateral meeting between Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, who is leading a delegation to the 2020 Dubai World Expo, and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani Ahmed al-Zeyoudi on January 24 in Dubai.
The meeting was to review preliminary analyses on the feasibility of an FTA and explore other avenues to create investment opportunities between the two countries, the commerce ministry said in a statement.
Sorasak invited the UAE business community to invest in Cambodia, identifying tourism and transport as sunrise industries with an enticing array of lucrative prospects.
On the tourism front, the Kingdom’s coastal areas, culture, and ancient temples – above all Angkor Wat – open up broad investment horizons, he said, while also directing attention to the need for a wide range of associated infrastructure such as airports, ports, roads and buildings.
The minister added that the Kingdom has abundant natural resources and thousands of agricultural products.
“Cambodia has signed bilateral FTA with China and South Korea and is in the process of negotiating similar deals with key partners, including Japan, India, Mongolia, Canada and the UK to diversify markets and boost exports, in line with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy Phase IV,” Sorasak said.
The minister also expressed a desire to set up a working group to study and examine the possibility of establishing an FTA between the two countries, in a bid to further enhance economic and trade cooperation.
Al-Zeyoudi “warmly welcomed” the Cambodian delegation and expressed his appreciation to Phnom Penh for its support and participation in the six-month Dubai World Expo 2020, according to the statement.
He asked the delegation to provide additional information on Cambodia’s investment potential and further look into the possibility of creating joint ventures down the road.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Pen Sovicheat told The Post on January 27 that the bulk of Cambodian exports to the UAE were agricultural goods such as grains, milled rice, fruits, meats, processed foods, and fragrant products such as scented candles as well as chips and oils of the Aquilaria crassna.
Other leading exports were decorative items, apparel, footwear, suitcases and travel goods, bags, and bicycles, he said.
Major imports from the UAE included lubricants, fuels, machinery, bitumen, paints, varnishes, glass adhesives, plastic roofing materials, primers, floor tiles, ceramics, bathroom accessories, kitchen appliances, furniture, lifts, sports and exercise equipment, and family cars, trucks and other vehicles as well as spare parts, he added.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UAE topped US$151.547 million in 2021, up by more than 52.660 per cent from nearly US$99.271 million a year earlier, according to a ministry report provided to The Post.
Of that, the Kingdom’s exports clocked in at nearly US$52.116 million, increasing by almost 18.927 per cent from just about US$43.822 million in 2020, and imports were to the tune of more than US$99.431 million, rising by close to 79.321 per cent from nigh on US$55.449 million, the data show.
Cambodia’s trade deficit with the UAE expanded by almost 306.951 per cent to more than US$47.315 million in 2021, from nearly $11.627 million a year earlier, the figures indicate.