South Korean officials have expressed their intention to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Cambodia next month to boost bilateral trade, news hailed by local businessmen.

The Korea Herald quoted South Korea’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance Hong Nam-ki as saying on Monday: “Since the proposal for an FTA with Cambodia was raised in March last year, as part of the government’s New Southern Policy, a joint feasibility study and related public hearing were completed late in May and on June 12, respectively.

“Based on this, the government plans to complete the process, including submission of reports to the National Assembly and launch FTA negotiations in July,” he said.

Mao Sothea, a sales manager at Kirirom Food Product Co Ltd, a mango processing plant which exports to South Korea, told The Post that if the two governments sign an FTA, it will provide a boost for her company.

She said: “This agreement will give a competitive advantage to the private sector to export goods to the [Korean] market.”

The two countries signed a joint feasibility study on establishing an FTA last year.

During a visit to South Korea in February, Prime Minister Hun Sen said bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea reached over $1 billion last year, up more than 36 per cent from $756 million in 2018.

The Kingdom exported $335 million in goods and imported $696 million last year, he said, noting that exports to South Korea mostly comprised of clothes, shoes, travel goods products, beverage, components for electronic equipment, rubber, medical and agricultural products.

Meanwhile, he said, Cambodia mainly imports vehicles, beverages, electronic equipment, home appliances, medical and plastic products.