Expo Signals Optimism for Cambodian-Vietnamese Ties

Amid surging imports from Vietnam, 200 business from Cambodia’s more industrialized neighbor to the east on Monday concluded their largest-ever trade fair in Phnom Penh, with more than 300 stands to hawk services and wares ranging from packaged foods and containers to garments and footwear.

Business representatives at the Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2010, held at the Koh Pich exhibition center, said they were confident that the upward trend would continue.

“Because our production is recognized as of international quality,

Vietnamese products are very popular with Cambodians,” said Huynh Minhvu of the trade promotion department at the Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade.

As little is manufactured in Cambodia beyond simple clothing, a high number of imports from Vietnam, with a GDP nearly nine times that of Cambodia at $90 billion, is inevitable.

Vietnamese exports to Cambodia increased by 37.3 percent to $598 million in the first five months of this year, according to figures from the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh. Experts predict that bilateral trade between the two countries will rise this year to over $2 billion, placing Vietnam over Thailand as a trading partner.

Mr Huynh noted that many of the companies presenting their products at the expo had taken in between $2,000 and $6,000 each day from the thousands of Cambodian customers who visited during the five-day event.

“We hope that in the future the relationship between Vietnam and

Cambodia will grow, because so far trade has always been successful

between the two countries,” he said, adding that another Vietnamese trade expo is planned for Battambang province in October.

However the dependency on Vietnamese imports should not stifle the development of domestic industries in which Cambodia already has an advantage, according to Joshua Morris, managing director of Emerging Markets Investments, a fund operating in Cambodia and Laos.

“In product categories where Cambodia has a competitive advantage, it is important that they produce domestically,” he said, adding that, with cheaper labor costs, Cambodia has an advantage in products that are labor-intensive.

Sopheak Seng, marketing manager of BPC Company, which distributes Vietnam’s Vinamilk products, said that there was particularly strong demand in Cambodia for condensed milk and yogurt.

Vinamilk “is considering building a yogurt factory in Phnom Penh next year,” he said.

“I came to this store two times already and spent around $100

buying clothes for my family at only this store,” said Kim Leang, a

55-year-old customer shopping at the Khataco clothing stand.

“I’m wearing Vietnamese-made shoes right now that I bought many years ago and they have not broken.”


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