Cambodia to take part in EU-ASEAN summit in Brussels

European Union and ASEAN are gearing up for the summit meeting next month as part of the 45th anniversary of their dialogue and bilateral relations.

The two-day summit, starting on December 14 at the EU headquarters in Brussels is expected to see the participation of the heads of state and government of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and EU member states.

Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, Kingdom of Cambodia, will attend the summit, Penn Sovicheat, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Commerce, confirmed to Khmer Times.

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo, Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, and Secretary of the Philippines Department of Trade & Industry Alfredo E. Pascual may also attend.

The meeting will be an excellent opportunity for EU and ASEAN leaders to seek to “build the supply chain that suffered major disruptions” during the Covid-19 pandemic, said an EU official in Brussels recently.

“The two regions could also aim to diversify the supply chain to expand free trade channels with both sides,” the official said.

ASEAN is a major trading partner for the EU with trade volume seen at $250 billion, according to UN data. Of this, Cambodian exports to the EU amounted to $4.14 billion in 2021, according to the United Nations ComTrade database on international trade.

According to European Commission data, in 2021 EU-Cambodia goods trade reached 4.45 billion euros, with the EU emerging as the fifth biggest trade partner accounting for 9 percent of the Kingdom’s total trade. Cambodia was the EU’s 61st largest trading partner accounting for 0.1 percent of total EU trade.

The Cambodia-EU bilateral trade was at $4.98 billion (4.45 billion euros) in 2021, up 4.6 percent from $3.8 billion in 2020, said a joint press release issued at the end of the 11th Cambodia-EU Joint Committee meeting in March this year.

“The two sides also committed to strengthening cooperation to ensure that Cambodia’s investment climate remains open, well facilitated, competitive, and conducive to sustainable socio-economic development,” the release stated.

“It also discussed regional and global trade development,  including updates on economic integration in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region, EU-ASEAN regional trade ties, and WTO reforms, among others,” it said.

In 2019, the two-way trade between Cambodia and EU was valued at $6.7 billion, and ranked as the second biggest trade partner of Cambodia, accounting for 11.9 percent of the country’s total trade.

While Cambodia exports to the EU mainly farm produce including milled rice, textiles, footwear, travel goods, and bicycles, it imports construction materials, food & beverages, electronics & pharmaceutical products, etc.

As for the 10-member ASEAN, the EU remains an important trading partner with the two-way merchandise trade reaching $268.9 billion in 2021, an 18.6 percent increase over 2020.

“The foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow from EU to ASEAN increased by 42.9 percent in 2021 year-on-year and amounted to $26.5 billion, making EU as ASEAN’s second largest external source of FDI among all ASEAN Dialogue Partners in that year,” stated the recent ASEAN statistics.

Bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) discussions between the individual ASEAN member states and the EU are on. The 18th AEM-EU trade commissioner consultations, on 18 September in Siem Reap, Cambodia, reaffirmed a future ASEAN-EU FTA as
a common long-term objective. The meeting also decided to intensify engagement on trade and economic issues by pursuing other avenues in the short to medium term.