Cambodia and South Korea yesterday signed five agreements, including the launch of a joint study on the possibility of a free trade agreement.
The agreements were signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn and his Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on the sidelines of the Asean-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the First Mekong-ROK Summit in Busan city.
Mr Sokhonn is representing Prime Minister Hun Sen after the latter announced on Saturday he could not make the trip because his mother in-law was hospitalised.
The five documents include the agreement on the Elimination of Double Tax and Income Tax and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance, and the Treaty on Mutual Assistance in the Criminal Sector, according to a government statement.
The statement added that the two countries also signed two Memoranda of Understanding on cooperation in agriculture and cooperation in technology, telecommunication and information.
It noted the last document was the launch of the Joint Study on the Possibility of a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Mr Sokhonn and Ms Kang agreed to renew the bilateral pact on agricultural exchanges and further explore ways to enhance cooperation on financial transaction systems.
“They also discussed ways to promote economic cooperation through a development cooperation fund for Cambodia’s infrastructure and by conducting joint research on a potential bilateral free trade deal,” the report said.
During South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to the Kingdom in March, both nations signed several agreements to further cooperation in various sectors, including public health, human resource development, transportation, energy, infrastructure, technology, trade and investment.
Mr Moon said then that Cambodia and South Korea became important economic partners and highlighted that last year bilateral trade reached nearly $1 billion and that South Korea is Cambodia’s second largest investor.
He noted that more than 300 South Korean firms are doing business in the Kingdom, providing thousands of jobs to Cambodians.
From 1996 to last year, the Kingdom received $632 million in financial aid in which $300 million was in the form of grants.
Chheang Vannarith, Asian Vision Institute President, said yesterday that the agreements will serve the interests of both countries.
“The bilateral relations have been remarkably strengthened over the years, especially in economic and cultural cooperation,” Mr Vannarith said. “The Republic of Korea will invest more resources in connecting its economy and people with Asean and the Mekong region.”
“The outlook on reaching a bilateral free trade agreement between Cambodia and the ROK is promising – this will serve the interests of both countries and peoples,” he added. “The Republic of Korea can also enable Cambodia to diversify its sources of growth and expand its export markets.”
Eat Sophea, a secretary of state at the Foreign Affairs Ministry who accompanied Mr Sokhonn, yesterday said that Mr Sokhonn also held a meeting with Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don to discuss cooperation with Phnom Penh.
“Our Phnom Penh governor previously wanted to strengthen cooperation with Busan in the Smart City sector and cooperation on city management and sewage water,” she said. “Prak Sokhonn requested for strengthening of such cooperation. The Busan mayor said he will push for cooperation with our city.”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Ms Sophea said that Mr Sokhonn asked South Korean authorities to take care of Cambodian people, especially migrant workers.
“In the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn requested that the mayor pay further attention to Cambodian people living and working here,” she said.
A recent Labour Ministry report said about 54,000 Cambodians work in South Korea. Ms Sophea said that about 9,000 are currently living and working in Busan.
Before cancelling his trip to Busan, Mr Hun Sen on Saturday said the trip to South Korea would help ensure better working conditions for migrant workers.
“I hope to meet Cambodian people, students, and workers who are living and working there. With my presence in Korea, I will help improve working conditions for our migrant workers,” he said.