China-Cambodia free trade deal highlights Beijing’s push for economic influence in Southeast Asia

Cambodia, which is among Asia’s poorest countries, has been an important ally to China in recent years, but trade volume between the two is relatively small.

The relatively speedy free trade deal that China sealed with Cambodia this week to cut tariffs and boost investment highlights Beijing’s intention to strengthen its economic influence among Asean members amid a growing rivalry with the United States in the region.

However, the full scope of the trade pact, put together in less than a year, has not yet been unveiled.

China already has existing trade agreements with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Cambodia. And many of China’s and Cambodia’s exports have already been tariff-free as a result of the 2010 Asean-China Free Trade Area agreement.

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