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China, Cambodia Sign Free Trade Deal

Cambodia and China on Monday inked a free trade agreement (FTA) at a ceremony in Phnom Penh.

The deal is Cambodia’s first bilateral FTA and was completed in July, just seven months after the talks began in January.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Cambodia to witness the agreement’s signing.

He was joined by Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia and China’s bilateral trade reached more than 9 billion dollars last year, though the balance is heavily skewed.

Cambodia’s imports from China in 2019 were valued at more than 8 billion dollars, while its exports to China amounted to less than 1 billion dollars.

The deal was celebrated as a milestone but few details have been released publicly.

Comments from Cambodian officials in the local media suggest the agreement has a focus on boosting agricultural exports.

According to the World Bank, the construction, tourism and garment sectors are Cambodia’s main economic drivers, responsible for more than 70 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2019

The share of the agriculture sector, meanwhile, has gradually decreased from about 28 per cent of GDP in 2009 to only 16.7 per cent last year, according to the National Bank of Cambodia.

Wang Yi’s visit to Phnom Penh also saw three other deals signed including plans for upgrading a hospital and infrastructure in the coastal city of Sihanoukville.

The top Chinese diplomat is currently on a tour of South-East Asia, with stops also scheduled in Malaysia, Laos and Thailand.

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