Cambodia eyes free trade agreement with Japan

Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak urged all relevant parties to work together on the possibility of establishing a free trade agreement between Cambodia and Japan following a remarkable surge in exports of Cambodian products to Japan this year.

The minister was speaking at a seminar, attended by businessmen and entrepreneurs from both countries, on trade facilitation and digitalization of trade between Japan and Cambodia on Friday.

The full implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (AJCEP) should be further strengthened, he said.

He encouraged the chamber of commerce of both countries to consider the possibility of signing a memorandum of understanding to boost economic, trade and investment cooperation.

“We should consider the possibility of conducting research on a free trade agreement between Cambodia and Japan,” Sorasak said.

Japan is the fifth biggest market for Cambodian exports during the first five months of this year, with the Kingdom exporting products worth $442 million to Japan.

The main exports to Japan were garments, bags, footwear, furniture, cosmetics, paper and office supplies and leather goods.

Cambodia imported machinery, automobiles, electronics, furniture, fabrics and plastics from Japan.

Establishing more FTAs with main trading partners will help Cambodian products gain market access, contribute to economic development, and generate income and jobs for local people, said Lim Heng, vice-president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce.

“Currently, under the framework of RCEP and AJCEP, Cambodia’s export to Japan is growing. If we have an FTA with Japan, it will be better. Further growth in exports is expected, contributing to national economic growth,” Heng told Khmer Times.

Cambodia currently has a bilateral FTA with China and South Korea. Last week, Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates announced a Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement.

In a get-together meeting with garment workers last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen lauded the constantly increasing Cambodia’s export to Japan.

“Despite not having a free trade agreement, Japan is the largest buyer of goods from Cambodia,” the Prime Minister said.

The two countries are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 2023.

The Prime Minister said that he was very proud of the Cambodia-Japan relations for the past 70 years. The premier said that Cambodia and Japan have reached a new stage of comprehensive strategic partnership, which is expected to attract more Japanese investment and open a wider market for Cambodian products.

In a meeting with Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Ueno Atsushi recently, Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism urged the Japanese side for the resumption of Japanese airline company All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) flights to Cambodia.

Heng echoed the remarks, saying that enhancing bilateral trade needs direct flight service.

Heng said that CCC has plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce to work on boosting bilateral relationships in investment and trade.