Phnom Penh, 17 March 2023 – Cambodia signed its first two bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) in 2022 – one with China and one with Korea, and more are likely on the way. In this context, EuroCham and ARISE Plus Cambodia completed a three-day training on Trade Policy & Negotiations on 15 March designed to help private sector representatives contribute to ongoing and future trade talks and benefit from existing FTAs.
During the course, participants were briefed on the basics behind trade deals and given a chance to negotiate their own deals using Trade Intelligence Negotiation Adviser (TINA). Through the interactive program, participants were able to simulate different trade deals with countries around the globe and make propositions that could create benefits for the Cambodian economy.
Among the methods available for the private sector to influence future negotiations are presenting issues to EuroCham’s advocacy committees, who then pass issues to the Government Private Sector Forum (G-PSF). Each year, the G-PSF presents issues to the government, acting as a liaison between the public and private sectors.
The training was honored to join by H.E. Tith Rithipol, Under Secretary of State of Ministry of Commerce, and share his insightful remark. H.E. pointed out the Government’s priority of promoting Cambodia regional and international integrations, such as an effort to deepen market accesses with numerous trading partners through global, regional and bilateral platforms. In this regard, he expressed his great appreciation for the training-series initiative and encouraged all participants to improve capacities through active learning during this training.
“It is crucial to organize such an important training series in order to disseminate as well as build capacity of the relevant stakeholders, especially our business communities, to better understand how trade policy and measures that governed businesses in Cambodia are maintained and adopted. It is very important for our business companies to understand market access opportunities under each platform in order to promote their export product and services, as well as investment”, he said.
The training course, led by Trade Policy Adviser Sven Callebaut, also offered a broad overview of trade negotiation tactics and outlined how Cambodia can use FTAs and other devices to ensure the growth of the economy after its planned graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2027.
Mr. Callebaut said: “Cambodia has made great strides in moving away from its dependency on one export product (garment) to diversify its economy by maximizing the use of bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements. But the road is still long, and we now need to prepare for what comes up once Cambodia has graduated from the LDC category and compete on quality, value chain integration, and not cheap labour.”
He said the private sector should stay engaged in a dialogue with the government on trade deals, especially as the economy continues to evolve.
"The narrative on why Cambodia is an attractive Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination is changing thanks to the new Law on Investment, and this should also be reflected in upcoming free trade negotiations and future Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) negotiations,” he added.
Callebaut was joined by Lead Trade Negotiator & Senior Advisor to the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, H.E. Dr. Sok Siphana and Dr. Deborah Elms, Lead Trade Negotiator and Founder and CEO of the Asian Trade Centre.
Among other topics, Dr. Sok and Dr. Elms shared their expertise on trade negotiations and dissecting the Rules of Origin stipulations in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to ensure Cambodian companies can take advantage of the recently enacted FTA.
“With the recent entry into force of the RCEP and the flurry of bilateral FTA, it is crucial that private sector actors know the rules of the games to be able to benefit from them, particularly on the use of the correct Rules of Origin for the products they want to export”, said Dr. Sok.
Dr. Elms said: “Cambodia has done an excellent job with growing by harnessing the opportunities created by existing trade arrangements. As the country transitions to the future, it becomes more important than ever to understand and prepare to use other trade agreements. EuroCham members have a critical role to play in helping the government prepare for new FTAs and managing effective implementation of existing agreements.”
This unique training initiative is part of the activity series delivered under the partnership of ARISE Plus Cambodia and EuroCham, with financial support from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), to boost the capacity of the private sector to engage effectively with the Government and vice versa on issues related to trade policy, and towards more effective trade policy negotiations.
“The Government negotiates those [trade] agreements to the benefit of the local private sector and needs therefore correct data and recommendations and feedback from you [private sector] to negotiate the best possible agreements. It is also essential for the private sector to understand the changes of trade policy in the current context of trade liberalization to prepare strategies and make use of new opportunities and access to interesting markets”, remarked Mr. Till Ahnert, ARISE Plus Head of Project.
“This training was a great example of putting forth progressive ideas to help bring about positive change in Cambodia’s economic environment. Free trade agreements will heavily affect the private sector and Cambodia’s trade flows, especially as the country moves to graduate from LDC status, and it’s important that the private sector is represented in these negotiations”, said Mr. Martin Brisson, Executive Director of EuroCham Cambodia.
The course will continue with Part 2 focusing on Trade Policy and Trade in Services scheduled for 3-5 April.
The European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (EuroCham Cambodia) was created in 2011 by French, German and British business associations in Cambodia to act as the official chamber of the European business community in the Kingdom. Since then, it has grown to over 300members and 5 national chapters, comprising 11 European countries. EuroCham Cambodia's core activities are to promote, support and represent its members and European business interests in dialogue with the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the aim of developing a more efficient and fertile business and investment environment for all.
EuroCham's key objectives are to
- Consult & advocate on key issues related to doing business in Cambodia,
- Promote investment to Cambodia,
- Work to improve access for European business to the Cambodian market, and vice-versa; and facilitate business between small and medium size companies of Cambodia and EU Member States,
- Provide services relating to economic, legal, technical, financial, market and other business issues in the EU and Cambodia and industry specific information to investors,
- Promote a strong European Union business identity vis-à-vis the Cambodian business community,
- Work closely with Cambodian stakeholders in supporting inclusive and sustainable growth of the Cambodian economy.
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
About ARISE Plus Cambodia
The ARISE Plus Cambodia project, co-funded by the EU and BMZ and implemented by GIZ, is set to support greater connectivity and economic integration between Cambodia and the rest of ASEAN through implementing the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 and strengthening institutional capacity.
The project focuses on three main intervention areas, including (1) improving customs, trade facilitation and standards, (2) strengthening Institutional capacities and improving regulatory practices, and (3) enhancing private sector engagement, notably of SMEs, and preparedness for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
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