EU Commissioner to Visit Cambodia

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PHNOM PENH: March 16, 2014  (Khmer Times) – Following the conclusion of the 8th EU-Cambodia Joint Committee in Brussels last Thursday, the European Commission’s Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar next week as part of efforts to boost ties with ASEAN.
In a statement released late Friday, the commission said De Gucht would hold high-level talks with counterparts in each country during the four-day visit from March 17 to 20.
“I’m looking forward to constructive talks with our partners in Southeast Asia,” the commissioner said.
“Experience is showing how opening up to trade is helping these dynamic countries raise living standards. At the same time, their markets provide opportunities for European exporters, so we really do have a win-win situation.”
In Cambodia, De Gucht is scheduled to meet Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol following this week’s EU-Cambodia Joint Committee meeting in Brussels.
As a least developed country (LDC), Cambodia benefits from a scheme that gives duty-free access to the EU for exports of all products, except arms and ammunition.
The EU’s merchandise trade with Cambodia reached €2.8 billion in 2013, up from €2.1 billion in 2012.
Cambodian exports to the EU rose by 30 percent from a year earlier to €2.4 billion last year, led by clothing (68.8 percent), footwear (12.9 percent), bicycles (10.3 percent), rice (5.2 percent) and sugar (1.6 percent). 
With the exception of garments, the EU was Cambodia’s biggest export market last year, the statement said.
The 8th EU-Cambodia meeting was preceded by the subgroups on development cooperation, on trade and on institution building, administrative reform, legal and judicial reform, governance and human rights, the European bloc said in a press release.
The Joint Committee was co-chaired by Ouch Borith, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and by Ugo Astuto, Director for South and Southeast Asia at the European External Action Service. 
EU and Cambodia exchanged views on Cambodia’s reform agenda and priorities in the post-electoral context, emphasizing reforms in the election process, governance and the respect for Human Rights as key drivers for Cambodia’s democratic development. 
Borith stressed that through Cambodia-EU Cooperation Agreement the EU has provided substantial assistance to Cambodia covering several sectors. 
In response, Director Astuto had said: “The EU has always been at the forefront to promote Cambodia’s recovery and development. This 8th Joint Committee was an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our strong support for a democratic, prosperous and sustainable Cambodia.” 
The sub-group meet on “Trade and Investment,”  noted the increase in bilateral trade, in particular Cambodia’s export performance, with the EU now becoming the primary destination of Cambodian exports. 
The two sides discussed in detail the trade regime “Everything But Arms,” which grants preferences to Cambodia as a least developed country, as well as a number of other bilateral, regional or multilateral issues. 
The EU being a major donor of trade related assistance, both sides agreed to continue working together towards improving Cambodia’s business and investment climate.

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