Asst. Governor of National Bank of Cambodia Joins The Hub - Pt. 2
Editor's note: Serey Chea, Assistant Governor of National Bank of Cambodia, believes the newly upgraded China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership will deepen the relationship. She also shared her views on China-Cambodia trade and the Belt and Road Initiative.
Wang Guan: This week, China and ASEAN elevated their relationship to comprehensive strategic partnership - one of the highest designation of the relations, cooperation among governments. How do you see that new designation impacting lives and economies in ASEAN and in your country Cambodia in particular?
Serey Chea: I think that on the top of the existing initiative like the set the ASEAN free trade agreement with China, we also have the Lancang-Mekong initiative for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam initiative with China, where it helps the CLMV country, we term it, to reduce developmental gap with our neighboring countries.
I'm sure that this new strategic, comprehensive partnership will deepen the relationship. And especially from the speech of President Xi, there was a clear sort of goal and it's very promising. He mentions about $1.5 billion in assistant to ASEAN for the next three years to recover from COVID. He also mentioned to increase import from ASEAN country worth $150 billion and particularly on agri products.
Now I want to focus on agriculture product, Cambodia export to China about 1.2 billion, mostly in agricultural products, but we import about $7 billion from China. So there are rooms for improvement in terms of virtual trade, but I think in term of agri product and if that is what President Xi mentions, increasing import from ASEAN, focusing on agri product, I think this is where the opportunity lies for Cambodia because we have 60% of our people in the farming sector.
Cambodia still has a lot of land that has been not yet exploited and therefore we believe that we can fill that gap with agri products and I do believe that China is also looking for reliable suppliers of food.
Wang Guan: Indeed, agricultural cooperation can be crucial. Also we know that Cambodia joined the Belt and Road Initiative since its inception. What do you make of this initiative, The Belt and Road Initiative?
Serey Chea: I can't talk about other countries, but I can speak for Cambodia that we have a lot benefited from The Belt and Road Initiative, particularly a lot of infrastructures. I mentioned earlier the country was ravaged by war; a lot of our basic infrastructure was destroyed. And so with this Belt and Road Initiative, we were able to rebuild roads and bridges.
And recently through the BRI, we are going to have our first highway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. That is to the great benefit for Cambodia because Sihanoukville is a port city and we need that connectivity to improve our logistic cost and trade. So definitely this is something that we have also benefited a lot.