Economists are optimistic that bilateral trade between Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will further increase following the two countries’ commitment to strengthen and expand trade.

The positivity comes in light of the implementation of the Cambodia-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cambodia-UAE CEPA) set to come into effect soon.

Minister of Commerce Cham Nimul and his UAE counterpart Thani bin Ahmed al-Zeyoudi discussed bolstering and broadening bilateral trade on November 29 in Abu Dhabi. This included exploring the benefits of the imminent trade agreement.

Nimul’s visit to the UAE coincides with both nations preparing to implement the arrangement, following its official signing on June 8.

“The UAE and Cambodia are leading by example, with our CEPA set to create a powerful platform for exchanging goods, services, ideas and capital. Nimul and I later discussed its implementation and ways to build on the $192 million non-oil trade we shared in H1 2023,” al-Zeyoudi stated in a social media post. 

Hong Vannak, an economic researcher at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on November 30 that the UAE, being a developed nation with expertise in oil and gas, presents an opportunity for Cambodia. 

He believes this could potentially increase the Kingdom’s market share in products such as agriculture and textiles, and enhance its knowledge in oil and gas exploration. The agreement is also expected to boost tourist inflow from the Arab region.

Vannak noted that although current trade between the two countries, and with the Arab region at large, is modest, it is anticipated to grow significantly once the accord becomes operational. 

“I expect that the agreement’s enforcement will open up major avenues for exporting Cambodian agricultural products to Arab countries,” he stated.

He further emphasised the importance for the country to thoroughly research and understand the high-demand products in these markets. This would enable it to cultivate or process products specifically for export under special conditions.

Commerce spokesperson Pen Sovicheat stated previously that the Cambodia-UAE CEPA promises numerous benefits for the country. He believes it will surpass the impact of the country’s past bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with countries like China and Korea. 

Cambodia has already incorporated key elements for exporting goods to the UAE, including agricultural products, halal food and halal-processed foods derived from beef and chicken.

According to the commerce ministry, trade between Cambodia and the UAE reached $151 million in 2021, marking a 53 per cent increase from 2020. Key items in bilateral trade include clothing, footwear, bicycles, travel goods, tobacco, milled rice, electrical appliances, vehicle components, asphalt, tuber sugars, animal feed, plastics, vehicles and paper.