The government’s initiative towards formal talks with Dhaka on a Cambodia-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement to diversify the Kingdom’s export markets and lure more investment inflows has been met with enthusiasm and optimism from officials, the business community and other observers.
At a recent meeting on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in the US’ New York City, Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina voiced enthusiasm at the prospect of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with the Kingdom.
Hasina stressed that the deal would help her country consolidate relations with ASEAN. Of note, Bangladesh is also forging ahead with preliminary work on proposed FTAs with Thailand and Malaysia.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Penn Sovicheat told The Post on October 6 that although Cambodia and Bangladesh have fairly similar export baskets, the pact could lead to sizeable economic gains, expanding trade flows in either direction, mutually reinforcing supply-and-demand relationships, and spurring investment between the two countries.
Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath said the two countries have a similar production and export structure, but noted that Bangladesh is the larger exporter of garments and other textile-related goods.
He said the proposed FTA may prove a boon for Cambodian agricultural goods, especially spices, considering Bangladesh’s insatiable appetite for these aromatic or pungent vegetable substances.
“At the same time, Cambodia can also import Bangladeshi merchandise that we cannot produce and re-export it at high prices, so the two countries would be diversifying exports for mutually economic benefits,” Sereyvath said.
Amru Rice (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Song Saran welcomed the expected deal, noting that the Kingdom could ramp up production of milled rice for export to Bangladesh, in part driven by investment from the South Asian country.
“It’d be swell if the two countries can strike a deal on cooperation in the supply and production of rice, trade and transport to Bangladesh.
“Once the countries are signed on, I’ll also be conducting a detailed study on shipping, logistics, the milled rice types and other standards to ensure that their [the Bangladeshi market’s] needs and delivery times are met, and explore the possibility of Bangladeshi players directly investing in the processing of rice and transport back to their home country,” he said.
The commerce ministry reported that trade between the two countries topped $22 million in the first nine months of 2022, up nearly 56 per cent from the more than $14 million recorded in January-September 2021.