Cambodia's senior officials and private sector have enthusiastically welcomed the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Canada, a move aimed at strengthening diplomatic ties and boosting trade, tourism and investment between the two nations.

Chum Sounry, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Alan Bowman, director-general for Southeast Asia and Oceania at Canada’s counterpart department, witnessed the signing on February 20.

According to the ministry, both parties viewed the MoU as an important step in advancing bilateral cooperation.

Sounry expressed gratitude towards Canada for its support in driving Cambodia’s economic growth and development, encompassing various sectors including investment, trade, education, demining and health. 

He noted the substantial increase in Canadian tourist arrivals in 2023, doubling the number from the previous year. 

Sounry highlighted that the opening of the Canadian Consulate in Siem Reap province on February 13 is expected to further enhance cooperation in tourism, trade and investment.

Penn Sovicheat, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce, emphasised Canada’s role as a major export market for Cambodian garment products, contributing immensely to the country’s economic growth over the years. 

He said that despite challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, trade between the two countries has been fruitful. 

“If we look at the trade data between our two countries, we see significant improvement. Canada is a key market, particularly for garments and textiles. I firmly believe that the commitment from both countries to enhance trade and investment will undoubtedly boost our exports. We are also exploring ways to diversify our product offerings in the market,” he stated.

Ly Khun Thai, president of the Cambodian Footwear Association (CFA), noted the popularity of Cambodian textile products in markets like the US,Canada, the UK and Europe. 

He attributed the decline in exports to these countries in 2023 to the high volume of orders in 2022 and global economic uncertainty. 

“For 2024, the CFA anticipates an increase in the export of footwear, gaiters and related articles, following the recent upsurge in sales for companies sourcing from Cambodia,” he explained.

Khun Thai anticipates that the clearance of stocks by buyers and retailers will lead to increased orders in 2024 compared to the previous year.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), total trade between the two nations amounted to $940.49 million in 2023, marking an 18.5% decrease from the $1.15 billion recorded in 2022. 

The figure represents approximately 2% of Cambodia’s total international trade volume of $46.83 billion in 2023. 

Among the Kingdom’s trading partners, Canada currently ranks eighth, following China, the US, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Germany. 

Exports to Canada were valued at $869.54 million in 2023, a year-on-year decrease of 22.4%, while imports surged by 109.4% to $70.95 million, leading to the expansion of the Kingdom’s trade surplus with the world’s ninth-largest economy to $798.59 million, as per the GDCE.