PHNOM PENH–Cambodia and the Republic of Korea on July 9 officially embarked on free-trade negotiations (FTA) with the goal of boosting bilateral trade and investment

The talks began during a video conference attended by South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, according to the ministry’s statement.

“We are pleased to launch FTA negotiations with Cambodia, which can potentially rise as the new hub of production and trade in ASEAN,” Yoo was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency.

“The two countries will make efforts to come up with a meaningful result within this year,” she added.

According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce, this trade agreement, if concluded, will open the door for Cambodia to export commodities such as textile materials, clothing and agricultural products to this East Asian market with a population of around 51 million.

While the two countries formally established diplomatic relations in 1997, it is during the last few years that their bilateral trade has significantly increased with trade volume rising to more than $1billion last year, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen who made the comment during his visit to South Korea last February.

During the online meeting on July 9, both ministers took an optimistic stance and expressed their governments’ commitment to having the bilateral trade agreement concluded, hoping that it will underpin the rule-based multilateral trading system as well as drive a robust economic recovery in post COVID-19 times.

Yoo noted that it is more imperative than ever for South Korea to expand cooperation with Southeast Asian countries during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic.

The move has been part of South Korea’s regional strategy as the country aims to diversify diplomatic and economic ties, with a strong focus on Southeast Asian nations under President Moon Jae-in’s New Southern Policy.

South Korea so far has bilateral free-trade agreements with two ASEAN countries, Singapore and Vietnam, and is in negotiations for FTAs with Malaysia and the Philippines.

Source: Cambodianess