Cambodia was ASEAN’s biggest exporter to China in January-March, the first quarter of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, according to Chinese trade officials.
Wu Guoquan, the commercial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, highlighted that the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has shown strong resilience and made great strides in spite of the once-in-a-century pandemic.
He credited this to the “strategic guidance and personal care” of the leaders of both countries.
Wu was speaking at the 2022 China-Cambodia Trade and Investment Forum, held in hybrid format on May 18.
Official Chinese statistics show that, in the first quarter of this year, Sino-Cambodian trade volume reached $3.75 billion, up 39.2 per cent year-on-year, he said. This figure is nearly a third larger than the $2.87 billion reported by the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE).
In the same period, Chinese non-financial direct investment in Cambodia was $206 million, up 35.2 per cent year-on-year, while the Kingdom’s investment in China stood at $24.86 million, up 255 per cent year-on-year, Wu added.
“The major projects of the Belt and Road Initiative jointly built by the two sides have progressed smoothly, and the export of Cambodian agricultural products to China has once again achieved a breakthrough.
“The practical bilateral economic and trade cooperation has constantly improved in terms of quality and efficiency, generally benefiting the wellbeing of the peoples of both countries,” he said.
Wu opined that under the “forbidding environment” of rising protectionism, a worldwide economic downturn, and a shrinking global market, China and Cambodia must maintain their “traditional friendship” and create a “new model and new highland vision” for practical economic and trade cooperation, as “iron-clad friends and a community with a shared future”.
Speaking at the same event via video link, Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce Qian Keming noted that China remains the Kingdom’s largest trading partner, and that the two countries achieved the $10 billion annual bilateral trade target in 2021, two years ahead of schedule. In addition, China has become the biggest buyer of Cambodian milled rice and bananas, he said.
Investment cooperation between the two countries covers a wide range of fields, he added, highlighting agriculture, electricity, textiles and communications as primary examples.
Qian also stressed the need for China to further tap into the potential for trade growth.
“China will strive to import $150 billion of agricultural products from ASEAN over the next five years, and is keen to work with Cambodia to jointly promote direct trade in agricultural goods such as milled rice, bananas and mangoes, and push forward the process to allow access to Cambodian agricultural products into China,” he said.
Representing the Kingdom at the event, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Seang Thay noted that nine Cambodian private-business support centres have been established in several major Chinese cities to promote Cambodian products with market potential, among a wide variety of trade-related collaborative initiatives that continue to be carried out by the two countries.
He noted that his ministry’s General Directorate of Trade Promotion has struck a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Guangxi region’s commerce department to boost trade cooperation, and bring potentially commercially viable Cambodian goods to the Chinese market.
Thay also mentioned that the Kingdom is expected to be able to export 40,000 tonnes of cassava to China in 2022-2023.
The two countries signed the bilateral Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) on October 12, 2020, which entered into force on January 1, 2022, paving the way for a strategic partnership and the promotion of economic and trade cooperation.
Cambodia and China also enjoy preferential trade arrangements under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, the latter of which also took effect on January 1.
Thay went on to say: “Cambodia and China must continue to promote cooperation in all fields, especially finance and trade, in order to accelerate the recovery of socio-economic activities after the Covid-19 crisis, by opening up markets and trade flows.
“Free trade also facilitates the flow of investment, to allow Cambodia – as well as other countries in the region – to promote products with potential, along with access to more financial resources,” he said.
Thay shared that last year, total Sino-Cambodian trade came to $11.194 billion, up 38 per cent over 2020, of which Cambodia exported “more than $1.5 billion” and imported $9.684 billion.