China, Cambodia sign free-trade pact

Bangkok, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- Cambodia and China signed a free-trade agreement on Monday in Phnom Penh at the end of a two-day visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The agreement covers a wide range of sectors, including trade, tourism, and agriculture, and also offers tariff cuts and more market access between China and one of its most important allies in Southeast Asia.

The two countries signed the pact during a ceremony attended by Wang Yi and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The two countries signed three more pacts, including an aid package from China worth $140 million for priority infrastructure projects in Cambodia this year, official media Fresh News reported Monday.

On Sunday, Wang said Cambodia would be one of the first countries to receive Covid-19 vaccines developed by China.

In August, Cambodia lost its trade privileges as a preferential trading partner for the European Union due to alleged systemic human rights violations by Hun Sen’s regime.

The Cambodian government then decided to focus its economic policy on China, the largest investor in the country, accounting for 43 percent of foreign investment.

Bilateral trade between the two countries has increased steadily in recent years and reached $7.4 billion in 2018, according to official figures.

Wang Yi’s visit to Cambodia is part of a five-day tour of several Southeast Asian countries that will also take him to Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Singapore.

China is the driver of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which could be the largest free-trade agreement in the world.

China signed the treaty with 16 countries: Australia, China, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand, and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – formed by Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

China and the ASEAN member countries maintain close trade ties. But the Asian giant has a territorial dispute over control of the South China Sea with several members of the regional bloc, including Vietnam and the Philippines, and, to a lesser extent, Brunei and Malaysia.

Cambodia is a strong political and economic ally of China and even went as far as to boycott ASEAN talks on claims over the disputed area. EFE-EPA


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