Kingdom-Japan trade groups to step up cooperation

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Bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and Japan topped $1.700 billion in 2021, marking a small increase of 0.49 per cent from more than $1.692 billion a year earlier, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Commerce. Heng Chivoan

The Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro) in Cambodia have agreed in-principle to examine the possibility of signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the near future, to strengthen and deepen cooperation on investment and trade between the two nations.

CCC vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on January 20 that the two associations work well together on a broad spectrum of issues, saying the chamber has sent young Cambodian entrepreneurs to Japan for training as well as to conduct various trade and investment activities between the two countries.

 

He sees the hypothetical MoU as a stepping stone for stronger partnerships between the two institutions, and even a potential free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries.

A significant share of Japanese businessmen who invest and trade in the Kingdom entered the scene as a result of cooperation between Jetro and the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh, he said.

“Frankly, we liaise a lot with Jetro in terms of trade and investment,” he said, “We have also set up a chamber of commerce representative office in Sendai, Japan to strengthen investment between the two countries.”

The Sendai office was established by a decision signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 14.

Heng said Japanese investment in Cambodia is growing at a brisk pace, especially in special economic zones (SEZ), with no let-up in sight.

Although Jetro has played a vital role in propelling and shaping this trend, bilateral trade has been stymied by a Covid-19-induced shortage of direct flights between the two countries, he lamented.

 

“The governments of the two countries, as well as all investment partners, must work together to bring more direct flights between the two countries, and boost trade and investment,” Heng said.

CCC president Kith Meng and Jetro Phnom Penh Office chief representative Marisa Haruta at a meeting on January 18 discussed matters related to cooperation between the two associations.

The talks focused on further strengthening cooperation, leveraging Jetro projects and other activities as well as CCC support, towards drawing in more Japanese investors to the Kingdom.

The proposed MoU and a similar deal on the cards between Jetro and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) could provide new and more effective bilateral and regional channels for collaboration between Jetro in Cambodia and the CCC, including within the framework of the ASEAN-BAC and East Asia Business Council.

The CCC’s Meng said: “I am very pleased with this great step forward between Cambodia and Japan and look forward to more fruitful cooperation with Jetro in the near future.”

Royal Academy of Cambodia economics researcher Ky Sereyvath told The Post on January 20, that Jetro in Cambodia has for many years acted as a fulcrum for trade with Japan, spurring government-to-government and scientist-to-scientist cooperation with a focus on trade and investment involving ASEAN countries.

He said a CCC-Jetro MoU would enhance the Cambodian-Japanese trade sector and expand the scope of imports and exports, and deliver strategic new opportunities for the Kingdom to lure more Japanese investors and technologies.

Bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and Japan topped $1.700 billion in 2021, marking a small increase of 0.49 per cent from more than $1.692 billion a year earlier, according to preliminary data from the Ministry of Commerce. Jetro has yet to publish figures beyond November.

Last year, Cambodian exports to Japan were worth $1.094 billion, up by 3.61 per cent over 2020, and imports were $607 million, down by 4.68 per cent year-on-year, ministry statistics show.

This means that the Kingdom’s trade surplus with Japan widened to $0.49 billion in 2020, from $0.42 billion a year earlier.