Phnom Penh Post - 20 September 2020
UK FTA could be on horizon
By Thou Vireak
Cambodia and the UK have vowed to boost their bilateral trade as the Kingdom looks to establish a bilateral free trade agreement with the country.
The understanding was made during a meeting between secretary of state of the Ministry of Commerce Sok Sopheak and deputy chief of mission at the British Embassy in Cambodia Marc Thayre on September 15.
During the meeting, Sopheak discussed the UK’s trade policy in the context of Brexit and the process of selecting a new World Trade Organisation director-general, who could come from the UK.
Sopheak said: “We called on all developed countries, including the UK to continue to support trade activities in developing and least developed countries through the provision of S&DT [special and differential treatment] in business.”
He said bilateral trade volume between the two countries is increasing while noting that the trade volume between the two countries was $1.05 billion in 2019. Of that total, Cambodia exported $978 million worth of goods to the UK.
The main exported products were garments, shoes, bicycles and rice.
“We are optimistic about positive cooperation with the UK, especially in the business sector to boost economic growth which is being affected by the global epidemic of Covid-19 disease,” Sopheak said.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) secretary-general Lun Yeng told The Post that the UK was the third-largest market for Cambodian rice in the EU in 2019. Cambodia exported a total of 14,816 tonnes of rice to the UK last year.
“We hope that our rice exports to the UK will increase further after the Kingdom officially leaves the EU. Our rice will no longer be subject to EU safeguards and its country does not have a rice producer, so it can allow us to import rice duty-free,” he said.
At a press conference at the Council of Ministers in July, Sopheak said in addition to free trade agreements with China and South Korea, the government was also looking to establish a bilateral free trade agreement with the UK.
“Our ambition is not merely centred on China. Its formal secession from the EU places the UK squarely in our sights. Given that 25 per cent of our exports go to Europe annually, the UK market is vast,” Sopheak said.
A report from the British Embassy in Cambodia said the bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and the UK reached more than $1.2 billion in 2017 – an increase of seven per cent from 2016.
Cambodia exported $1.16 billion worth of goods to the UK in 2017, up five per cent from 2016 and imported $48 million from the UK in 2017, up 112 per cent from the previous the report said.