A delegation from the US Trade Representative and the US Department of State is visiting Cambodia this week to discuss bilateral trade issues, including automobile standards and the Kingdom’s labour situation.
The four-day visit from June 3-7 is headed by Assistant US Trade Representative for the Office of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Karl Ehlers, and Assistant US Trade Representative for Labor Affairs, Lewis Karesh.
During the visit, the delegation met with the Minister of Industry and Handicraft Cham Prasidh and Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak to discuss issues pertaining to the US-Cambodia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
During the meeting on Wednesday, Sorasak said the Cambodian government expressed its thanks to the US for its provision of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) agreement for the Kingdom’s travel goods exports to the US market.
“The US providing tax preferences also attract more of their investors to Cambodia such as Tumi Holdings Inc,” he said.
Review of preferential tariffs
According to the latest trade data from the US government, Cambodian exports from January to March amounted to $1.12 billion – up 24 per cent from $903.6 million during the same period last year.
The visit coincided with the EU delegation in Cambodia, which is discussing the Everything But Arms agreement with the government. It is considered a good sign which will ease tensions in both the Kingdom’s current trade and political situation.
US embassy spokesman Arend C Zwartjes declined to comment on whether the US trade delegation would be positively influenced by the Cambodian government’s recent political decisions.
However, he previously told The Post in May that the US remains concerned about perceived human rights issues in the Kingdom and the alleged weakening of democratic institutions.
It is uncertain whether the US will review its preferential tariff arrangements with Cambodia.
The US remains Cambodia’s largest single export market and Cambodia is a beneficiary of duty-free market access under the US’ GSP programme.
Top Cambodian exports to the US include textiles and footwear, while US exports to Cambodia are vehicles, animal feed and machinery.
Assistant Ehlers told Sorasak during their meeting that Cambodia is the eighth-largest beneficiary of the GSP programme.
“This progress reflects a positive sign in the Kingdom’s garment and footwear sector,” he said, adding that there will be further negotiations to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries on trade and investment.