Interview: Cambodian senior gov’t official paints brighter picture for Cambodia-China economic, trade cooperation

PHNOM PENH-19 January 2024: A Cambodian senior government official has painted a rosier picture for Cambodia-China economic and trade cooperation in 2024, saying that a steady increase in bilateral trade and investment volumes has benefited both countries and peoples.

Sok Siphana, a senior and chairman emeritus of the Board of Directors of the Asian Vision Institute, said 2024 is the year to implement the China-Cambodia community with a shared future in the new era and the China-Cambodia People-to-People Exchange Year.

“China-Cambodia economic and trade cooperation will continue to deepen and become a driving force for the China-Cambodia economy as well as an important driving force for sustainable social development,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“The potential of China-Cambodia tourism cooperation will continue to be better explored, and Cambodia's infrastructure investment will achieve a higher growth,” he added.

Siphana said the construction of the “Industrial Development Corridor” and the “Fish and Rice Corridor” will achieve new developments.

He said Cambodia's economic growth is expected to rebound to 5.8 percent in 2024, citing a World Bank's recent report.

The senior minister said Cambodia and China had achieved good results in their trade and investment ties in 2023 amid declining global demand, saying that the two-way trade increased last year, as China's investment in Cambodia accounted for 66 percent of the kingdom's foreign investment sources.

He said China had been Cambodia's largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years and remained the Southeast Asian country's biggest source of foreign direct investment.

Siphana said the formal entry into force of the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) have injected vitality into the continued growth of the bilateral trade volume.

According to him, Cambodia's rice, cassava, bananas, mangoes, longans, peppers, and other categories of high-quality agricultural products are approved to be exported to China.

Durians and bird's nest are currently undergoing market access assessment, he said, adding that China has become the largest export market for Cambodian bananas and longans.

Siphana said Cambodia is committed to maintaining its high-level diplomacy with China and supporting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“The BRI is an important factor in attracting more Chinese investment,” he said.

The senior minister added that the BRI is deeply aligned with the first phase of Cambodia's Pentagonal Strategy, enriching the “Diamond Hexagon” cooperation framework between the two countries, as well as playing an important role in Cambodia's economic development and improvement of people's livelihood.

He highlighted flagship BRI projects in the kingdom, including the Siem Reap International Airport officially launched last November, the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway formally put into operation in November 2022, and the ongoing construction of the second expressway from Phnom Penh to Bavet.

“A large number of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports, and ports implemented by Chinese-funded enterprises have promoted Cambodia's economic development and connectivity,” Siphana said.

He added that the construction of hydropower stations and transmission grids invested by China, the construction of multiple industrial parks such as the Sihanoukville Special Economy Zone, and the construction of car tire and cement plants have improved the level of industrialization in Cambodia and created a large number of jobs and tax revenues for the kingdom.

“Investments from Chinese technology companies have also expanded Cambodia's digital economy and green economy,” he said. “China and Cambodia have achieved outstanding results in jointly building a high-quality, high-level, and high-standard community with a shared future.

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