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Experts Say Even a Free Trade Agreement Does Not Automatically Mean Easy Exports

PHNOM PENH: The Director General of the General Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ngin Chhay, has said that in order to facilitate the export of Cambodian agricultural products to international markets, it is necessary to meet four factors, including how to make good quality products with high hygiene standards, low costs and competitive transportation.

At a press conference on the conditions, quality, response and export of agricultural products related to the Cambodia-Korea-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Friday, 18 March, Ngin Chhay stated that although Cambodia has established FTAs with other countries, which will allow for free trade in agricultural products with lower tariffs or no tariffs at all, this still does not mean that all exports will come easy, as Cambodia will still need to meet technical and phytosanitary conditions that require a lot of careful attention while exporting goods.

He said, "In order to maximize the benefits of a free trade agreement, all stakeholders need to be involved in addressing relevant issues such as trade facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, market adequacy, and standardized production capacity. In particular, hygiene and phytosanitary standards, food safety, and addressing technical barriers to trade are export requirements we must meet.”

According to Ngin Chhay, the goal to adequately meet sanitary and phytosanitary requirements involves the development of an effective agricultural production system based on the development of agricultural value chains. This includes forming priority prices and strengthening coordination and interventions, or complementing them. He added that each of the relevant national ministries and institutions thus will need to strengthen the partnership between the public, private, producer communities and development partners.

Based on the National Hygienic Database, agricultural exports in Cambodia in 2021 totaled 7.98 million tons, exporting to 68 countries. This is an increase of 3.11 million tons (equivalent to 63.83%) over the same period of time in 2020 (which saw a total of 4.87 million tons of exports).

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