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More progress in free-trade agreement with S. Korea

Chhut Bunthoeun / Khmer Times Share:
South Korean Booyoung Group is behind a $1.1 billion mixed-use development project in the heart of Phnom Penh, Thee proposed trade deal is expected to see more investment from the country. KT/Siv Channa

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea said yesterday that it made further progress giving more details for the planned free-trade agreement (FTA) with Cambodia.

It is planning hold a public hearing on the envisioned FTA today by inviting related experts, which is mandatory under local law before seeking a commerce treaty, South Korea media reported.

South Korea and Cambodia completed the study last month and agreed to start domestic procedures to pave the way for official talks, it added.

The two countries signed an agreement to launch a joint feasibility study on the FTA last year November in the Korean city of Busan.

The Cambodian Ministry of Commerce has established eight different groups to be in charge of the trade negotiations with each potential partner, including working groups in charge of trade talks with China, the Republic of Korea, the UK, the Eurasian Economic Union, the US, Japan, Mongolia and India.

Obviously, the Kingdom’s FTA with China, the world’s second-largest economy, will take the lead after the third round recently concluded, paving the way to get the deal signed by end of the year, said Seang Thay, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce.

For an FTA with South Korea, he said the feasibility study was concluded in May, because expert teams from both countries have been continuing to hold meetings through teleconferences because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

However, when asked how long the negotiation process would take, the ministry could not provide a specific period because both countries may need more time to discuss extra offers.

“This negotiation stage could take anything from eight months to a year. We can’t know that yet because the timeframe will depend on the results of negotiations from one round to another. If we want it [the FTA] to be finalised too soon, the negotiation stage will mean nothing,” Thay explained.

Even though the trade deal has not yet been signed, the ministry has already enabled the export of some goods to the South Korean market through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Some of the goods we have exported to South Korea have been under the least-developed country status issued by the WTO. However, through this free-trade deal, we will be able to have more quotas on more products enter their market,” Thay added.

Two-way trade between Cambodia and South Korea was valued at $1 billion in 2019, representing a 36 percent increase from $756 million in 2018, up 15 percent compared with 2017, according to official government figures.

Once the FTA deal is signed, it is expected to not only strengthen the relationship and promote bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea, but also create more employment and investment opportunities – while promoting export services that will contribute more to economic growth.

They will also bring more benefits to the people of the two nations.

Pan Sorasak, commerce minister, said the government has empowered the Ministry of Commerce to strengthen the Kingdom’s competitiveness and trade and economy diversification.

“The trade integration is to expand and open the door to access more markets based on free-trade agreements rather than rely on bilateral trade exemptions that are easy to lose in one day,” he said.

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