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David Puttnam

Puttnam says UK bilateral trade will remain unchanged

UK Bilateral Trade Unchanged

10 November, 2016

UK Bilateral Trade Unchanged

The United Kingdom’s bilateral trade dealing with Cambodia will remain unchanged in light of ongoing negotiations on the UK’s position within the European Union, a senior British trade official said yesterday.

Visiting British Trade Envoy Lord Puttnam told Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday that the UK would continue its close trade relationships with Cambodia, according to a video posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page.

British Trade Envoy Lord Puttnam ( Left) with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn. KT/Mai Vireak

“In the UK’s exit from the EU, until now – especially in the negotiation stage – there are no signs of changes that will affect trade and investment relations between Cambodia and the UK,” Lord Puttnam was quoted as saying.

On June 23 British citizens voted to exit the EU. The referendum roiled global markets, including currencies, causing the British pound to fall to its lowest level in decades.

The UK is presently one of the largest export markets for Cambodia under its Everything But Arms agreement with the EU. Last month, the prime minister spoke of his plans to negotiate new trade agreements that would offset any changes in trade due to Britain’s position.

“Before, we exported to Britain some $882 million through the European Union. But now, we have to negotiate with Britain on whether we still can export under that trade agreement. We want to know whether we can still get preferential trade privileges, as we used to previously,” said Mr. Hun Sen.

In an email from the British Embassy to Khmer Times in July, it stated that until the UK had officially left the EU, it would continue to trade under the existing EU-Cambodia arrangements.

“Arrangements for bilateral trade after Britain leaves the EU are to be determined in the period between now and exiting the EU. The United Kingdom’s new departments for international trade and exiting the European Union have made clear the UK’s desire to remain an open trading partner after we leave the EU. This would entail FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] with a range of trading partners,” the British Embassy said.

Following Tuesday’s meeting with Lord Puttnam, Mr. Hun Sen applauded the UK’s efforts to quickly shore up trade agreements.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Britain rose from about $750 million in 2013 to $800 million in 2014, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Cambodia’s total exports to Britain in 2014 were $56.45 million.

As part of his negotiations, Lord Puttnam also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn and Public Works Minister Sun Chanthol.

Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told Khmer Times yesterday the overtures from the UK were welcomed, but that it would take time before official trade agreements were signed, not least because the UK has yet to formalize the process of leaving the EU.

“Right now we both are in the preparation stage,” Ms. Sophary said.

“[Despite] knowing that the UK will be leaving the EU, the UK needs two years to remove itself from agreements that it has with the EU single market.”

“In the two year period, we don’t know what procedures can be taken. But we can still wait,” Ms. Sophary said.