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Positive start for bilateral talks

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen with his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-cha inspecting a guard of honour at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. Reuters

The Third Cambodia-Thailand Joint Cabinet Retreat that will be held in Siem Reap province on Thursday and Friday will discuss bilateral issues ranging from development cooperation to border development, and trade and investment, according to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce.

“The joint cabinet meeting of Cambodia and Thailand will see both governments commit themselves to an ambitious two-way trade volume of $15 billion by 2020,” said the ministry’s Soeng Sophary.

“Close relations between both countries have been strengthened and the issues to be discussed are bilateral trade, connectivity, investment, border development, and security,” added Ms Sophary.

The meeting will be co-chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. The agreement to promote enhanced partnership for peace and prosperity and the agreement for the avoidance of double taxation are expected to be signed at the Siem Reap meeting.

“These agreements are expected to further encourage cross-national economic activities,” said Ms Sophary.

The Second Cambodia-Thailand Joint Cabinet Retreat took place in Bangkok, in December 2015, under the co-chairmanship of the two countries’ premiers. At the 2015 meeting both governments agreed on measures to implement various issues of cooperation with an emphasis on bilateral security, connectivity, trade and investment and border development.

The two governments also agreed to triple the current bilateral trade volume from $5 billion to $15 billion by 2020.

“On bilateral trade, we want to discuss trade balance with Thailand. Right now Thailand’s exports to Cambodia are far higher than what the country imports from us,” said Ms Sophary.

One issue that could be off the talks’ agenda is the Phnom Penh-Bangkok rail link, leaving the exact date of its launch in limbo.

“I don’t think the Cambodia-Thailand railway will be on the agenda because there is still a stretch of rail track under contention and border talks to agree on the transport of goods by train are still inconclusive,” Chan Kimleng, director of the Transport Ministry’s railway department, told Khmer Times last week.

“At this juncture, I cannot say with certainty when the rail link will be completed. There’s still 10 percent of it yet to be completed in Poipet city,” Mr Kimleng said.

“We expect the issue of the missing link to be resolved by October. After that the railway will be completed,” he added.

Vannaporn Ketudat, deputy director-general of Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce’s International Trade Promotion Department, told Khmer Times in July that trade between Cambodia and Thailand was on an upward trend.

“The relations between the two governments coupled with a good business environment and Cambodia’s high economic growth are among the factors for increasing two-way trade between Cambodia and Thailand,” said Ms Ketudat.

Trade between Cambodia and Thailand was valued at $2.9 billion in the first six months of the year, up about 10 percent compared with the same period last year, according to figures provided by the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Thailand was Cambodia’s second most important trade partner in 2016, while it was ranked eighth in the kingdom’s export market list in the same year, according to the Commerce Ministry.

For Thailand, exports, based on financial settlements, rose 8.0 percent in July from a year earlier, the Bank of Thailand said.

The BOT has forecast economic growth of 3.5 percent this year, with exports rising 5 percent. The economy grew 3.2 percent last year.

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