BRI, RCEP ‘set to boost Cambodia-China ties’

The relationship between Cambodia and China is set to grow further thanks to several initiatives, including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Global Development Initiative (GDI), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), experts said during a webinar yesterday.

The second China-Cambodia Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum was organised by the Asian Vision Institute (AVI) in collaboration with the Economic Daily and China Economic Net.

While talking at the videoconference, Suos Yara, chairman of the Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media, National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said Cambodia and China are ironclad friends and closest development partners.

“Cambodia has achieved strong economic growth over the last decade thanks to strong economic cooperation with China. As of October 2022, the trade volume between the two countries reached $9.6 billion due to the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which both came into force on 1st January 2022,” he pointed out.

Expressing optimism that the bilateral economic cooperation between Cambodia and China would continue to strive, he said the Chinese investment had provided tangible benefits to Cambodia’s national development in the field of agriculture, agro-industry, tourism, industry and infrastructure.

“The mega infrastructure project of roads, expressways, ports and airports has significantly developed and modernised Cambodia connectivity. Cambodia is happy and grateful to the Chinese government and the people for providing invaluable support to the Cambodian people, particularly during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

He said China had played a leading role in offering timely assistance to Cambodia with medicine, medical equipment, medical experts and humanitarian aid to the Kingdom.

Yara said Cambodia is a strong supporter of China’s global and regional multilateralism initiative. This initiative is inclusive and based on win-win cooperation and partnership, he pointed out.

“Equality, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial partnership characterise the relationship among us. Cambodia was the first country to sign the action plan on building the China-Cambodia community with a shared future in April 2019 to promote political cooperation, security cooperation, economic cooperation, cultural and people-to-people exchange and multilateral cooperation,” he said.

He pointed out that the concept of building a community of shared future is compatible with Cambodia’s foreign policy priority which is to promote win-win cooperation based on the principle of mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual learning, non-interference and sovereign equality as well as to serve Cambodia national interest in promoting peace, prosperity and cultural identity.

“I firmly believe that Cambodia and China will need to further empower a people centre and multi-stakeholder approach towards development, cooperation and partnership building by focusing on people and cultural connectivity,” Yara added.

Meanwhile, Dr Sok Siphana, chairman of the board of directors of AVI, said Cambodia and China had forged a very strong bond during good times and difficult times alike.

“The last three years of the Covid-19 pandemic was certainly a true testing moment of our relationship. The 2019 action plan on building Cambodia China community of shared future gave a vigorous strategic dimension to our partnership in fields of cooperation ranging from security, politics, economic development, trade, investment and people-to-people ties.”

Pointing out that the Chinese companies remained top investors within the first half of this year, he named a few flagship projects that have Chinese investment, including the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway, the Sihanoukville coal power plant, the Siem Reap Angkor international airport, and the Sihanoukville-Hong Kong submarine cable project.

“In terms of strengthening industrial supply chains between the two countries, the Sihanoukville multipurpose special economic zone will certainly deepen our cooperation in production capacity and help accelerate Cambodia’s development of a modern industrial mix.

Earlier, Zheng Qingdon, president and editor-in-chief of Economic Daily, talked about the potential for future growth due to the close ties between both countries.