Cambodia urges Thais to sign trade deal

Trucks wait at the Aranyaprathet checkpoint in Sa Kaeo to enter Cambodia. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Cambodian officials have asked their Thai counterparts to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cross-border trade as soon as possible to avoid complications for transportation companies when new Thai regulations on cross-border trade comes into effect in mid-November.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), a new Thai customs law, due to come into force on Nov 13, will make the transportation of goods by land along the Cambodian-Thai border illegal if Thailand is not the final destination or if Cambodia is not the origin country, a situation that would have a negative impact on Cambodian exports, the reported on Thursday.

However, an MoU on cross-border trade between Cambodia and Thailand announced in late October would legitimise shipments to or from third countries, which will be done by establishing six specialised checkpoints along the border.

An announcement was released on Wednesday by the GDCE to warn companies to get their shipments into Thailand before the Nov 13 deadline to avoid any problems clearing cargo in case the MoU is not signed on time.

“To ensure smooth import-export operations along our mutual border, the GDCE is working hard to negotiate with its Thai counterparts to finalise the MoU and sign it before November 13,” the GDCE announcement said.

“The deadline is coming up, but the Thai customs administration has not approved the MoU yet,” it says. “We urge all businessmen and companies to make pertinent preparations — including changing shipping routes and possibly going through and alternative country — in case the MoU is not signed on time.”

According to the GDCE’s announcement, the contents of the MoU have been discussed and agreed by both parties since Oct 11. However, the Thai government still needs to review it and sign it.

Sin Chanthy, the president of the Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, told the Khmer Times on Wednesday that the Cambodian government needs to push Thailand to sign the MoU before the new regulation kicks in.

Not doing so will affect trade, tourism and the logistics sector, he added.

Chanthy said shipments of agricultural products along the Cambodian-Thai border must inevitably go through the Laem Chabang port in Chon Buri.

“If Thailand bans third country shipments, it will affect import and export operations in Cambodia,” he said.

“Both Cambodia and Thailand have pledged to boost bilateral trade to US$15 billion. However, if Thailand’s new law comes into effect, we won’t be able to reach it.

“The GDCE must act quickly to find a solution,” Chanthy added.

Ly Utny, the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Banteay Meachey province and director of Ly Utny Import and Export, told the Khmer Times he is not concerned about Thailand’s new trade law as it has not come into effect yet.

To avoid any complications at the border, however, he advised transportation companies and import/export enterprises to get their shipments to Thai customs at least by Nov 12, a full day before the new regulation is implemented.

Bou Bunnara, the chief of the public relations unit at GDCE, said recently that Cambodia and Thailand were working hard to have the agreement ready and signed before the November deadline.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha pledged in September to increase imports of agricultural products from Cambodia, open more border crossings between the nations and seek new ways to reach the targeted $15 billion in bilateral trade.

“We will launch a new customs law that will make it easier for Cambodian businessmen who want to export to third countries via Thailand,” Gen Prayut added.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Thailand reached $5.6 billion in 2016, a rise of $100 million year-on-year. Thailand’s exports to Cambodia last year were worth $4.7 billion, while Cambodia’s exports to Thailand were valued at $937 million.

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