Cambodia, one of China’s trusted allies, faces challenges of economic vulnerability due to the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and limited export destinations. At the same time, a growing trend of trade protectionism with new hidden barriers and de-globalization in the global market is hampering Cambodia’s economic and investment sectors. In this context, China’s open door and cooperation policy offers a glimmer of hope for the prosperity and development of neighboring countries, resuming economic growth at a faster pace. In order to deliver on President Xi Jinping’s pledge, China has taken a number of concrete steps in recent years, including one that allows foreign companies better access to the domestic market and a foreign investment law that ensures an environment conducive to business. At the same time, China has taken further steps to strengthen bilateral and regional cooperation by joining trade blocs such as RCEP and CPTPP, staging a series of mega-trade exhibitions, and improving connectivity through the Belt and Road initiative (BRI).

Among them, China Import and Export Exhibition (Canton Fair), China International Import Expo (CIIE), China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), China-ASEAN expo, China-South Asia expo, Euro-Asia Economic Forum and Trade Cooperation Expo, Inter-textile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics and China Yangling Agricultural High-tech Fair are all key exhibitions which will undoubtedly be of great importance for developing economies like Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. Participation in these forums is expected to open up business opportunities and further enhance bilateral relations and cooperation.

Beijing is one of Cambodia’s main trading partners. According to the data, between January and May 2021, Cambodian exports to China were valued at US $ 558 million, an increase of 56% compared to the same period in 2020. Despite the fact that over the US $ 8 billion US bilateral trade in 2020, only the United States One billion dollars was sent from Cambodia. On the other hand, from January to July 2021, the overall import and export volume of China and Bangladesh was $ 13 billion, an increase of 58.9% year on year. However, despite the fact that bilateral trade strongly favors China, Cambodia and Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and other countries in South and East Asia have enormous potential which has yet to been achieved. Over the next ten years, China is expected to import a total of $ 22 trillion in goods. Therefore, China’s exhibition platform will provide a great opportunity for Cambodia and Bangladesh to explore the vast Chinese market and expand exports to bridge the bilateral trade gap and increase income.

Bangladesh’s main export items, ready-made garments and others, including leather goods, jute and jute articles, agricultural products, frozen and live fish, pharmaceuticals, plastics, articles sports, crafts and tea have a strong competitive advantage in the international market. But its limited export destination (mainly the US and the EU) could put Bangladesh in a more difficult position due to the US suspension of the GSP and India’s imposition of duties. anti-dumping. of the “Everything But Arms (EBA)” initiative after graduation from the PMA group in 2026.

Likewise, Cambodia’s exports are dominated by textile products, which account for about 70 percent of total exports. Other export products include vehicles, footwear, natural rubber, and fish. Cambodia’s main export partners are the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom. The European Union (EU) withdrew the EBA status in 2020, which provided duty-free access to EU markets. Amid such looming economic uncertainty, the good news is that China has granted duty-free access to 97% and 98% of Bangladeshi and Cambodian products respectively. Therefore, exhibitions are important ways to learn about Chinese consumer preferences and tap into the vast Chinese market. By participating in these exhibitions, the two countries can display and popularize their flagship products and diversify their export destination globally, as a large number of buyers, entrepreneurs and companies from Europe, America, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa attend.

Cambodia Ministry of Commerce officials say Cambodia and China have pledged to increase bilateral trade to $ 10 billion by 2023, up from $ 8 billion last year. To achieve this goal, the National Assembly of Cambodia ratified the bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China on September 9, 2021, with the aim of increasing trade in goods by lowering and eliminating tariff barriers. and non-tariff. Trade, tourism, investment, transport and agriculture are all included in the Cambodia-China Free Trade Agreement. China will grant duty-free treatment to 98% of Cambodian imports, while Cambodia has accepted exemptions for up to 90% of its Chinese imports.

It is worth noting that Bangladesh and Cambodia are building high quality infrastructure, such as power plants, bridges, highways, railways and ports, in collaboration with China. Now, the two countries should highlight the vast investment potential and gain the confidence of a large number of foreign investors through various international platforms organized by China.

In short, the exhibitions provide a platform to understand the Chinese market and the development of China as well as to make new connections with consumers, companies, experts and different technologies that could lead to the specialization of products and to added value in order to adapt to conditions in China, a market with 1.4 billion people and more than 400 million middle-income people. In this regard, China can provide technical assistance in developing policy positions and an export development strategy to help Bangladeshi and Cambodian products to reach the Chinese market.

Like Cambodia and Bangladesh, other countries in South and East Asia can also use the exhibitions to promote their brands, create a new business image and expand their business opportunities in China and the global market. Along with economic and trade gains, such platforms would forge stronger cultural cooperation that would further strengthen bilateral relations and foster partnership for win-win development.

*Parvej Siddique Bhuiyan, Master in International Relations from Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka. Development Officer, Dhaka, Bangladesh.