The leaders of Cambodia and Thailand have united in their commitment to enhance trade and tourism, with the ambitious goal of elevating bilateral trade to an impressive $15 billion in the upcoming years, marking a new era of prosperity and partnership between the two neighbouring ASEAN nations.

During a courtesy call to Prime Minister Hun Manet at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on January 10, newly-appointed Thai ambassador to Cambodia Cherdkiat Atthakor acknowledged the improvement in bilateral trade between the two kingdoms, noting that the daily lives of the people are also significantly better. 

He emphasised that due to the strong commitment of the leaders of both countries, the economic relationship and people-to-people relations stand very firm and close. 

Cherdkiat also expressed his appreciation to Cambodia for warmly receiving Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin during his September visit last year and is looking forward to welcoming [Manet] for his official visit to Thailand in the near future.

Manet also expressed appreciation for the marked improvement in cooperation between the two countries, which is growing increasingly stronger. 

He highlighted the progress in cooperation in other potential sectors including trade, tourism and people-to-people relations.

Since both former prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia pledged to spur bilateral trade to reach $15 billion over the next few years, efforts have been made to ease cross-border trade and promote the flow of investments.

Sar Sarin, senior vice-president of the Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council (CBC), recently told The Post that Thailand remains one of the country’s leading trading partners, following mainland China, the US and Vietnam. 

He anticipates that the new premiers of both countries, who already share a close relationship, will enhance the confidence of Cambodian and Thai investors. 

“We do believe that trade and investment between our countries can expand further, thanks to the good relationship between the leaders. This is very important for investors,” he said.

Jiranun Wongmonkol, president of the Thai Business Council in Cambodia (TBCC), told The Post that several Thai conglomerates, like Big C, are planning to expand in Cambodia. 

He said Big C is set to build a supermarket in Phnom Penh after completing one in Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province. 

“Once large Thai companies, including CP Group and GTC Group, expand their business in Cambodia, it will encourage other businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] in Thailand, to consider coming to Cambodia. I strongly believe that the new governments will ensure that bilateral trade reaches $15 billion soon, a pledge made by the former prime ministers,” she said.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), trade between Cambodia and Thailand amounted to more than $2.8 billion in the first three quarters of 2023, reflecting a downturn of nearly 18% from the same period the previous year, with imports from Thailand constituting about 77% of the total. 

Thailand is currently ranked as Cambodia’s fourth-largest trading partner, following China, the US and Vietnam.

Cambodia’s exports to the ASEAN neighbour during the first nine months of 2023 slightly decreased to $652.09 million, a dip of 0.5% from $655.05 million in the same period last year. 

Imports from Thailand for the interval fell more sharply by 22% to $2.17 billion from $2.78 billion in 2022. 

The Kingdom’s current trade deficit stands at $1.52 billion, an improvement from the $2.12 billion deficit seen in the first three quarters of 2022, as per the GDCE.