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Israel trade delegation planned

First high-level Cambodia visit aims to boost commerce.

ISRAELI officials are pressing ahead on plans to boost trade and investment in Cambodia with a high-level visit and a major trade show in the works for 2009.

The first official delegation of its kind to Cambodia is set for March 16-17 and is to   include the Israeli ambassador to Thailand and possibly Israel's economic and telecoms ministers, said Tzahi Selzer, economic and trade attache at the Israeli embassy in Bangkok.

Selzer said the embassy could not confirm which ministers would attend until after Israel's  February 10 elections, but added that the visit would focus on the agriculture and telecommunications sectors.

"Israel has made many advancements in the field of agriculture, including irrigation systems," he said. "Israeli [agricultural] technology can be seen all over the world. Being a farmer in Israel means being a rich person."

Selzer said that Israeli businesses are looking to Cambodia as a market for high technology, agriculture, telecommunications and green energy.

"Israel's top markets are Europe and the United States, but Asia is booming and there is a lot of potential here," he said. No figures were available on bilateral trade and investment, he added.

Cambodia has seen a flood of Middle Eastern investment in recent years, with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates leading the pack. The prime ministers of Qatar and Kuwait visited Cambodia in 2008 to gain a foothold in the agricultural sector.

But the Israelis maintain that they are not eyeing Cambodia for geopolitical reasons. "We are not at all concerned with any country except Iran. We have very good relations with many Arab states," he said.

Selzer also dismissed growing international calls for a boycott of Israeli goods in the wake of the bombing of Gaza that has killed more than 1,000.

"We haven't seen much effect on the economy. ... The Israeli stock market has actually gone up, and the Israeli shekel is up," he said, referring the country's currency." 



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