China, Cambodia trade pact more form than substance

Bilateral FTA to be symbolically signed same day EU punitively imposes tariffs but the deal will do little to save Cambodian industry.

A soon-to-be-signed Cambodia-China free trade agreement (FTA) will not extend Phnom Penh the economic lifeline it initially sought from Beijing and now needs more than ever in the wake of Covid-19.

Cambodia’s first-ever bilateral trade pact will by initial estimates add less than 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) to the economy and prioritize agriculture over manufacturing exports at a time Cambodia’s crucial garment industry is teetering towards collapse.  

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government is nonetheless putting a positive spin on a deal brokered with the leader’s closest ally and benefactor, both as an avenue to lessen export dependence on the West and a way to revive the flailing agricultural sector.

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