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The second day of second-round negotiations of the Cambodia-South Korea Bilateral Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) was held via video conference on Tuesday.
This comes after the first-round negotiations that were held online from July 30-31, as Cambodia strives to diversify its export portfolio and penetrate deeper into Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay told The Post that the four-day second round of talks would take place between Monday and Thursday.
He said the talks will mainly address the scope of the goods that can enjoy preferential access and the text of the agreement, which comprises six primary chapters – trade in goods; trade remedies; rules of origin; customs procedures and trade facilitation; economic cooperation; and regulatory framework.
“Provided that the two countries enter into an FTA, Cambodia will obtain greater market access and draw in more foreign investment,” Thay said.
Tech Meng, an official with Confirel Co Ltd, a local company that produces and exports palm-sugar and Kampot-pepper products, said FTAs with other countries would be a boon for private-sector market access.
He noted that the company’s palm-sugar exports surged 92 per cent year-on-year in the first half of this year, driven by (in order of importance) the US, Chinese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Kazakh, Ivorian and South Korean markets.
Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Sok Sopheak told a press conference at the Council of Ministers on July 28 that the negotiations team wants to wrap up talks with South Korea on a technical framework by the end of this year and reach a final agreement early next year.
“The working group will negotiate and finalise key parts this year. The two governments have acknowledged that [an FTA] would prove mutually beneficial,” he said.
He added that the government is also looking beyond South Korea and the possibility of establishing future FTAs with India, Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Japan.
“Our ambition is not merely centred on China. Its official secession from the EU places the UK squarely in our sights. Given that 25 per cent of our exports go to Europe annually, the UK market is vast,” Sopheak said.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and South Korea reached more than $1 billion last year, up more than 36 per cent from $756 million in 2018, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a February speech to Cambodian workers in South Korea.