Cambodia and Malaysia on February 24 pledged to further expand trade and investment, as Prime Minister Hun Sen asked his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob to push for companies back home to buy more Cambodian milled rice.

At a joint press conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said the two countries have discussed a range of possible ways to expand bilateral trade.

“I have appealed to the prime minister of Malaysia to advocate for the export of more milled rice from Cambodia, or investment in rice mills, warehouses or procurement networks to supply milled rice from Cambodia to Malaysia, as part of efforts to increase trade volumes,” he said.

The premier said that Malaysia was ASEAN’s biggest buyer of Cambodian milled rice from 2017-2021, and that Cambodia wants the Maritime Southeast Asian nation to buy more of its agricultural products.

Despite Covid-19-related disruptions, trade between the two countries saw remarkable growth last year, Hun Sen noted. Ministry of Commerce figures show that Cambodia-Malaysia trade volume topped $500 million in 2021, rising by 13.14 per cent over $442 million a year earlier.

Last year, Cambodian exports to Malaysia passed $101 million, up by 2.62 per cent from more than $98 million in 2020, and imports exceeded $399 million, up by 16.16 per cent year-on-year from over $343 million a year earlier.

Hun Sen predicted that bilateral trade growth would remain on a positive track through 2022.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian prime minister commented that trade was still low, but that there is potential for expansion, given the nature of the two countries’ export portfolios, particularly in the field of agriculture.

Ismail Sabri underscored the importance of Malaysian business ventures in Cambodia, which he said provide job opportunities and stimulate economic development.

He encouraged both countries to promote cooperation in fields such as information and communications technology (ICT), fintech, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and start-ups.

The premier also suggested business communities in the two countries explore ways to boost bilateral trade and investment.

Hun Sen claimed that Malaysia has ranked third over the past five years for “number of investors”, and said he looks forward to more Malaysian investment now with the new investment law in place.

Cambodia encourages Malaysian companies to do business and invest in Cambodia, particularly in areas such as real estate, construction, auto spare parts, infrastructure and halal food, he added.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) reported that Malaysia has invested more than $3.15 billion in the Kingdom as of end-2021.