China has pledged to import 400,000 tons of Cambodian rice, expanding the trade volume between Cambodia and China to $10 billion by 2023 and granting nearly $600 million to Cambodia, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page.
China's pledge followed a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday on the third day of the prime minister's four-day visit to Beijing.
"His Excellency [Xi Jinping] said that although international relations have changed, the relations between China and Cambodia are certainly benefiting each other, and through this, China will continue to expand cooperation with Cambodia, especially for the development of Cambodia to be twice more solid,” according to the post.
The strengthening of the relations between the Cambodian and Chinese governments coincided with the EU's declaration of increasing import duties on Cambodian rice and the possibility of its removal from the preferential trading scheme known as Everything But Arms.
Taxes on Cambodian rice imports to Europe were announced last week. Cambodia said it stands to lose about $50 million a year in added tax.
Ky Sereyvath, a Cambodian economist, said the rice import deal with China would empower farmers in Cambodia and expand Cambodia's export options.
He said: "China will give Cambodia 400,000 tons of export opportunities. This is a new page for Cambodia. This means that the exporting country has the power to set higher prices and provides more options.”
Xi also reportedly spoke of strengthening cooperation with the countries included in its One-Belt One-Road initiative.
Sereyvath said the strengthening ties between Cambodia and China was a boost for Cambodia that could bridge the gap left by worsening relations with the West.
In recent years, there has been a surge in Chinese investment in construction and other sectors in Cambodia, particularly in Preah Sihanouk province, which has raised concerns about the instability of property prices and warnings of organized criminal activities.