Cambodia and Russia have officially inked agreements to promote bilateral trade and investment until 2020, although concrete details about how that will be accomplished have yet to be released.
During the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit this week, Prime Minister Hun Sen led a delegation of high ranking officials and members of the business community to discuss ways of boosting economic relations.
In total, Cambodia signed eight agreements with their Russian counterparts. Such business agreements include a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media and the Cambodian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to cooperate on information technology.
Pan Sorasak, the newly-appointed Minister of Commerce, signed a joint statement with Alexei Likhachyov, the Russian first deputy Minister of Economic Development, on a list of project proposals aimed at increasing trade and investment up to 2020.
The signing of the agreements were presided over by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Hun Sen.
“We have signed a list of bilateral projects to be implemented by 2020. It will provide the basis for developing investment cooperation and trade and for addressing a number of other issues,” said Medvedev, according to a transcript from the signing ceremony.
“Although bilateral trade grew by about 40 per cent at the beginning of the year, it is well below our potential in absolute terms,” he said.
Medvedev added that Russia has good prospects for investing in the construction of energy facilities, supplying cargo lifting equipment, and drilling and mining tools. He also highlighted that there was room to develop the agriculture and telecommunications sectors.
Hun Sen welcomed the agreements and said the respective governments would continue to work to strengthen political and economic partnerships.
“We signed six agreements during the prime minister’s visit in November last year, and today we have signed another eight agreements. This is evidence of our trust in each other,” he said, adding that Russia should continue to pursue opening up direct flights between Moscow and Phnom Penh to boost tourism.
Since Medvedev’s first state visit last November, the two countries have been trying to hammer out a bilateral trade deal.
While specific details have yet to emerge on the framework of the agreement, numerous Russian businesses have conducted investment tours throughout the Kingdom.
In March, 16 Russian firms alone visited Cambodia, including the state-run firm JSC Russian Railways, and Inter Rao – an energy holding company.
However, Stephen Higgins, managing partner of investment firm Mekong Strategic Partners, said it would be difficult for Cambodia and Russia to develop a strong trade or investment relationship because each country’s economic advantages do not overlap.
“Russia’s advantage is very much centred on cheap fossil fuels, but that isn’t really going to help Cambodia as we look forward [in the next] five to ten years,” he said.
Trade volume between Russia and Cambodia fell by 16 per cent in 2015, totalling $110.7 million.