Kingdom, VN hash over trade issues

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Bavet-Moc Bai international border checkpoint is the largest such gate in Svay Rieng province. Hean Rangsey

Cambodia and Vietnam on February 19 made inroads on a handful of cross-border trade issues amid Covid-19, with Hanoi given the privilege to set a concrete date for the official opening of the long-awaited Prey Vor-Binh Hiep international border checkpoint in southern Svay Rieng province.

Chhieng Pich, director of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s General Department of Logistics, led a discussion meeting via video link on improving transport across the border with Vietnam, especially Svay Rieng’s Bavet-Moc Bai and Prey Vor-Binh Hiep international border checkpoints.

 

Pich said via social media that the meeting tasked a recently-formed joint working group to review and finalise a memorandum on lorry quotas in each direction across the border. He stressed that the quotas in either direction should match.

“Cambodia and Vietnam have been working closely to find ways, to find solutions that improve cross-border transport between the two countries – by reducing congestion at international checkpoints and further increasing the number of cross-border lorries – and aim to boost economic growth in both nations,” he said.

Pich asked the Vietnamese side to set two key dates – one for a first meeting between the Kingdom’s joint working group and its counterpart in Vietnam, and another for the unveiling of the Prey Vor-Binh Hiep international border checkpoint in Prey Vor village.

With a name that means “vine forest”, Prey Vor is in Kampong Ro district’s Thmey commune and is a 50km drive southwest of Bavet town. Bavet is the province’s number two urban centre and home to its main border gate (with Moc Bai), which is often chock-full of container lorries.

Pich said: “In response, the Vietnamese side is ready to officially open the Prey Vor-Binh Hiep international border checkpoint, but the issue of Covid-19 has hampered those plans. Still, both sides are committed to pushing for the inauguration as soon as possible.”

Logistics Business Association (LOBA) president Chea Chandara noted that Vietnam has implemented stricter measures on goods transport via the Bavet-Moc Bai checkpoint during the pandemic, fuelling increased congestion.

 

“Vietnamese customs inspect all items and opens every container. These [measures] are even more stringent than before the Covid-19 outbreak. Seeing that goods were really jam-packed at the border, a plethora of our transport companies diverted goods traffic to the Prey Vor-Binh Hiep international checkpoint,” he said.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng told The Post that cross-border trade between the two countries persists, if only a bit restrained from Covid-19 restrictions.

“This discussion is splendid news for the private sector and could lead to a facilitation of goods flow. We also want to resolve such issues with the Thai side,” he said.

To date, Vietnam has 184 ongoing registered projects in Cambodia with a total capital investment of $2.76 billion, ranking third out of 78 countries and territories after Russia and Laos, according to the official Facebook page of the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia.

Between 2015 and now, an average of 10 projects have been approved each year with total capital investment of between $30 and $70 million, mostly in agriculture, banking and telecommunications, according to the embassy.

According to Vietnam’s VTV1 television channel, Cambodia-Vietnam trade value will reach about $5 billion last year, which is similar to 2019.

Trade between the two countries was worth nearly $5.3 billion in 2019, up 11 per cent from 2018, according to Vietnamese ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh.

And the embassy said Cambodia mainly exported paddy, milled rice, cashew nuts, natural rubber, tobacco leaves and bananas to Vietnam, and imported steel, oil, vegetables, fruits and fertilisers.