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Cambodia, Russia to boost bilateral trade, looking at FTA

Christopher Devonshire-Ellis / Khmer Times Share:
A Cambodian woman buys mangos along a street in Phnom Penh.Both Russia and Hungary are said to be keen to import more of the fruit from Cambodia. AFP

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong met Russian Ambassador to Cambodia Dmitry Tsvetkov in Phnom Penh this week and said both countries had good diplomatic relations that continue to be strengthened by Russian contributions to the Kingdom’s economic growth.

Cambodia and Russia have pledged to increase bilateral trade and investment as the Kingdom aims to diversify its market through the signing of a free-trade agreement (FTA) with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), of which Russia is a member, together with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It has a total market of 183 million people and a GDP of US$5 trillion.

In Asean, Singapore and Vietnam also have an FTA with the EAEU, while Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are also known to be interested.

Namhong said: “Our countries share a good relationship and we cooperate well in many sectors. Since 2015, our countries have signed 51 agreements to boost trade and investments in the financial sector, agriculture and more. Last year, bilateral trade reached US$55.39 million and we hope it will continue to grow this year. Cambodia welcomed some 55,653 Russian tourists last year and hopes to welcome an increasing number in the future. Presently, we are in talks over 14 memoranda of understanding (MoU) which we expect to be signed soon. These will focus on tourism, education, law and youth development,” he said.

He also expressed hope that Russia will support Cambodia in its free trade negotiations with the Eurasian Economic Union.

In return, Dmitry Tsvetkov noted Cambodia’s fast development and said he was impressed by the fact that even though Cambodia was not an oil-producing country, it had seen approximately 7 percent growth last year.

He said a Cambodia-Russia Working Group had started negotiations on a free-trade agreement with Eurasia, while he noted Cambodian officials visited Moscow last year to discuss the EAEU FTA.

In 2016, Cambodia and the EAEU signed an MoU to enhance cooperation in trade. However, as Cambodia is still in the WTO Least Developed Country classification, 46 Cambodian products can enter the EAEU market duty-free within the next three years.

Businesses in the region are hoping that Cambodia can secure further trade agreements, with agricultural conglomerate Mong Riththy Group  planning to expand markets for mango exports in Russia and Hungary.

MongRetthy Group president, Mong Riththy said his company plans to export around 5,000 tonnes of mangoes a year to Russia.

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