ISSN 2330-717X

Cambodia And Bangladesh Can Benefit From Growing Trade Ties – OpEd

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Friendly historical relations between Bangladesh and Cambodia were established in 1973 through the late King Sihanouk of Cambodia and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh. Formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1993. Over the past three decades, relations between the two countries have deepened and both countries have been cooperating with each other in bilateral and multilateral arrangements.

Bangladeshi medicines, agricultural products garments, footwear and leather goods, knitwear, pharmaceuticals, tableware, home textiles, textiles, seafood and marine products, tea, potatoes, jute and jute products, light engineering products, spices, cosmetics and ceramics, Toilets, etc. can be exported easily to Cambodia through Myanmar and Thailand. On the other hands. Cambodia mainly exports cotton, edible oil, fertilizer, cleaner, staple fiber, yarn, etc. to Bangladesh.

Trade, agriculture and culture. There is a huge potential for boosting trade between the two countries. There are opportunities for greater cooperation in education and culture, and for the promotion of tourism centered on the Ganges-Mekong valley.

According to Bangladeshi Media reports, Bangladesh and Cambodia cooperate in various sectors. In 2014, the two countries signed an agreement to establish a joint commission to explore new areas of cooperation and strengthen the existing cooperation in various sectors. 

Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Cambodia was only $5.57 million in 2016, of which Bangladesh’s export was $5 million and import was $0.57 million. Cambodia’s exports to Bangladesh have seen a steady increase in the past five years except 2016. 

Bangladesh and Cambodia cooperate in various fields. According to Bangladeshi media outlets, in 2010, the two countries agreed to set up a joint commission for bilateral cooperation between the foreign ministries. In 2013, they signed a visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic passports. Bangladesh has expressed interest in hiring Cambodian human resource development teachers. In 2014, a joint commission was set up to explore new areas of cooperation between the two countries. An agreement was signed to strengthen existing cooperation. In 2014, an agreement on cultural cooperation was signed between Bangladesh and Cambodia. The signed 10 deals in 2017 are expected to enhance bilateral ties and strengthen economic cooperation between the two developing countries.

Bangladesh has proposed a long-term land cultivation agreement for farms in Cambodia by Bangladeshi nationals. Bangladesh is keen to sign a long-term rice import agreement with Cambodia. Bangladesh Cambodian students have been awarded scholarships by Bangladesh Agricultural University. The two countries jointly conduct agricultural research. In 2014, Bangladesh and Cambodia signed an agreement for scientific and technological cooperation in the agricultural sector.

At the same time, Bangladesh-Cambodia has started work to expand bilateral trade, increase investment, and develop the apparel. agricultural and tourism industries. Ready-made garments, medicines, jute and jute products, ceramics, juices, food products, vegetables, peppers, construction materials, melamine, paper and paper boards, flowers, plastic products, leather and leather products, shoes, soybean oil, potatoes, fertilizers and cosmetics. There is a huge demand in the Cambodian market. 

This time the government is working to get duty free market facility for the export of these products. Cambodia is becoming increasingly important in increasing regional trade. As a result of various official initiatives, Bangladesh’s trade relations with that country will be further strengthened. The government is playing an important role in increasing trade and investment by maintaining friendly relations between Bangladesh and Cambodia.

Cambodia is very closed to Myanmar geographically. Thailand is a neighboring state of Myanmar. Myanmar and Cambodia can be able to access in South Asia through Bangladesh. If Cambodia connects itself with Bangladesh-Myanmar-Thailand-India connectivity project and Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar connectivity corridor through Thailand, Cambodia would be benefitted. A huge potential is waiting for Cambodia. If the two projects can be implemented truly, Cambodia will be gainer in this regard. Bangladesh-Myanmar improved ties is very needed in this regard. Cambodia is a very friendly country to both Myanmar and Bangladesh 

According to Commerce Ministry of Bangladesh, In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.39 million to Cambodia and imported $0.4 million worth of goods. The government of Bangladesh is thinking of increasing it further. Apart from this, the government is also thinking of providing various facilities to bring investment to Cambodia. 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Bangladesh in 2014 and sent congratulatory messages to Bangladesh on March, 2021 to mark the birth centenary of Its Founder Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence.  He met with Premier Sheikh Hasina in 2017. Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina visited Cambodia in 2017. This type of Visits accelerated the ties between the two countries. 10 MoUs were signed during her visit to Cambodia in 2014 to boost up economic, cultural ties. Bangladesh and Cambodia have signed 10 instruments, including nine memorandums of understanding (MoUs), to boost trade and investment between the two countries. The instruments were signed with the aim of enhancing cooperation in various fields like tourism, agriculture, civil aviation, ICT and technical education.

There have many bright potentials of many Bangladeshi products in the Cambodian market. On the contrary, there have huge possibilities of Cambodian products in Bangladesh. Now it is high time to address the need to increase the participation of the private sector in the two countries. Cambodian entrepreneurs should invest in Bangladesh to serve their own business interest. 

Bangladesh and Cambodia both have invested in apparel sectors and agricultural production sectors specially rice cultivation sectors. Some opportunities are waiting for Cambodian investors to invest more in Bangladesh’s special economic zones, industrial parks and high-tech parks.

Exchange of experiences between the two countries in the field of agriculture including paddy cultivation and freshwater fish farming, tourism, Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy, countering cyber-crime, export of human resource, usage of arable lands of Cambodia, investing in garments sector are some potential sectors for both parties. More institutional cooperation in the field of education for technical training and skill development can strengthen the ties.

The training of Cambodian students and other staffs and technician in Bangladesh, Cambodia could benefit by importing world class medicines from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has always taken its relations with Cambodia seriously. Bangladesh is producing capable electronics. Bangladesh electronics are available in Nepal now. Cambodia can import these to fulfill the demands of its people.

Even, Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen praised the digital transformation of Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and emphasized on increasing trade and expanding the scope of business between the two countries. He lauded the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in tackling the Covid-19 epidemic. He expressed interest in increasing bilateral trade. 

Bangladesh has already proved itself that Bangladesh is a true friend and well-wisher of Cambodia. Bilateral trade can boost up the ties. Bilateral trade and investment, agriculture and fisheries, science and technology, culture, defence, ICT, tourism, and parliamentary friendship are some very potential sectors.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina is very keen to strengthen ties with all South East Asian States. She is very interested in ‘Economy Diplomacy’ of Bangladesh. She ordered all government officials to ensure that. Cambodia would benefit from Bangladesh in this regard. Bangladesh is keen to provide assistance to Cambodia. Covid-19 vaccine distribution and counter-terrorism training are some areas for cooperation. The Rohingya refugee problem has, however, created some tension between the Bangladesh and Myanmar, and find the solution can serve the longer-term interests of Bangladesh and Myanmar even Cambodia also. Myanmar and Bangladesh should solve this problem to serve its own and reginal interest. Myanmar should understand that it is the issue of the region. Whole South Asia and South East Asia may be volatile and unstable for this problem. 

Cambodia can play a very significant role in this regard. Cambodia can mediate to bolster the strained relations between Bangladesh-Myanmar. Cambodia can play to repatriate the Rohingyas in Rakhine in Myanmar. Cambodia can easily solve the problem because it has a very good relations with Myanmar.

However, Bangladesh and Cambodia can also increase production in the agricultural sector through joint ventures. Apart from adopting joint investment projects, Bangladesh can increase imports of various agricultural products including pulses, spices, fish and rice. Thus, enhancing bilateral relations could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and BIMSTEC countries. Therefore, Bangladesh and Cambodia should take effective steps to strengthen bilateral relations to connect the South East Asia with South Asia

However, Bangladesh is going to be an Asian Miracle. Bangladesh and Cambodia are both friendly countries, and both states should strengthen their business interest for serving the mutual benefit.  

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Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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