Prime Minister Hun Sen praised China for its efforts in combatting Covid-19, and revitalising and boosting socio-economic growth in Cambodia, the region and the world.

Hun Sen made the remark on November 22 at the virtual ASEAN-China Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, where he was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron.

“With the effective containment of the spread of Covid-19, Cambodia would like to congratulate China on its rapid recovery with a growth rate of approximately 9.8 per cent during the first nine months of 2021,” the prime minister said citing a figure reported by China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

“Cambodia would also like to encourage China to continue providing assistance to ASEAN, and above all to support the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework [ACRF] and initiatives to respond to Covid-19.

“For the time being, Cambodia would like to persuade China to resume travel to and from ASEAN, to strengthen and promote tourism, air transport services, business activities, trade and investment,” he added.

Cambodia Association of Travel Agents president Chhay Sivlin predicted that Chinese sightseers would become one of the biggest contributors to the recovery of the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

“We foresee now that the Chinese will be among the top foreign tourist arrivals to our country once we reopen to vaccinated tourists later in November,” she said.

According to the prime minister, Phnom Penh and Beijing have agreed to bring the bilateral

Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) into force in January, and renewed a pledge to boost trade to $10 billion per annum.

Hun Sen made the remark on November 15 at a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang to explore avenues to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

Li vowed to push for joint mechanisms and work plans between the two sides to draw up and renegotiate quotas on the direct import of Cambodian milled rice and other agricultural goods to China.

At November 22’s summit, Hun Sen encouraged ASEAN and China to continue to strengthen regional connectivity in line with the essence of the ASEAN-China Joint Statement on Synergising the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to optimise the flows of goods, services and people.

“At the same time, in addition to the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement [ACTFA], ASEAN and China should further promote and place more emphasis on maximising the benefits of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] which will strengthen the foundation for long-term economic growth, and bring about mutual prosperity in line with the ASEAN-China Strategic Partnership Vision 2030,” he added.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and China reached nearly $7.968 billion in the first nine months of 2021, increasing by more than 38.36 per cent year-on-year, the commerce ministry reported.

In January-September, Cambodia exported $1.093 billion, up by more than 52.74 per cent year-on-year, and imported $6.875 billion, surging by 36.32 per cent compared to the same period in 2020. This means that the Kingdom’s trade deficit with China widened by 33.6 per cent over the period, from $4.33 billion to $5.78 billion.