Cambodian trade delegation arrives in China to finalise FTA

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a trade delegation to China today to finalise a free trade agreement (FTA)

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Photo: REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a trade delegation to China today to finalise a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

Details of the agreement, a first for Cambodia, have not been publicly released, but comments made by public officials indicate that Cambodian agricultural products will be an integral component. Phnom Penh claims that the agreement will boost exports to China by 25% a year—approximately $325 million, according to pre-pandemic statistics. This new agreement coincides with the suspension of EU tariff exemptions afforded to Cambodia in response to a deterioration in human rights and democracy under Hun Sen.

The FTA is being panned by experts as highly speculative for Phnom Penh and heavily lopsided in favour of China. In the past two years, trade between the two countries totalled $7 billion, but Chinese exports, totalling $6.1 billion, accounted for the lion’s share. As globalised trade becomes increasingly bifurcated as a result of rising tensions between the US and China, Hun Sen’s apparent disinterest in maintaining economic relationships with Western powers has unsurprisingly driven him to forge closer ties with China. Expect Beijing to continue building influence in the region in hopes of forestalling increased scrutiny into its actions in the South China Sea.

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