Cambodia and the UAE on June 3 discussed scaling up bilateral trade relations, instituting “priority mechanisms” to enhance commerce and investment between the two countries, and a possible feasibility study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), according to the commerce ministry.

The virtual discussion was held between Ministry of Commerce director-general for International Trade, Rath Saravuth, and UAE Ministry of Economy senior adviser Kayaan K Unwalla, the ministry said in a statement on June 3.

The talks were “in line with the spirit” of a meeting between commerce minister Pan Sorasak and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed al-Zeyoudi at the 2020 Dubai World Expo in the namesake emirate on January 24.

Saravuth thanked the UAE for its keenness to support commerce and investment cooperation initiatives through a CEPA, and suggested the federation of emirates prepare a draft terms of reference and feasibility study.

According to the statement, Kayaan reacted with a high degree of optimism to the prospect of a CEPA with Cambodia, and shared information regarding procedural aspects, and the economic, trade, and investment potential that could arise from the pact.

He said the CEPA would cover priority sectors such as online and conventional trade in goods and services, investment, economic cooperation, and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Kayaan noted that the UAE has established two CEPAs, one with Israel and another with India, and plans others with Indonesia and other countries.

At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed to look further into the procedural dimensions and relevant terms of reference of the possible CEPA, and explore its potential benefits, according to the statement.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UAE topped $151.547 million in 2021, up by more than 52.660 per cent from nearly $99.271 million a year earlier, according to a commerce ministry report provided to The Post.

Of that, the Kingdom’s exports clocked in at nearly $52.116 million, up by almost 18.927 per cent from just about $43.822 million in 2020, and imports passed $99.431 million, up by nearly 79.321 per cent from almost $55.449 million, the data show.

Cambodia’s trade deficit with the UAE expanded by almost 306.951 per cent to more than $47.315 million in 2021, from nearly $11.627 million a year earlier, the figures indicate.

Major traded products include textile articles, travel goods, bicycles, oils, animal feed, fertilisers, minerals, tobacco and ceramic products, according to the ministry.

Ministry spokesman Penn Sovicheat, on the other hand, had told The Post on January 27 that the bulk of Cambodian exports to the UAE comprise 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 are decorative items, apparel, footwear, suitcases and travel goods, bags, and bicycles, he said.

Major imports from the UAE include 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.