The Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) has begun pursuing closer trade, commercial and economic relations and cooperation with the Australian business community after opening two representative offices in the country at the weekend – one in Melbourne on May 6 and the other in Sydney the following day.

A CCC delegation – then in Australia for the opening ceremonies and accompanying elections of key members – on May 4 met with Laura Burke, senior regional manager for Southeast Asia at Global Victoria, the namesake Australian state’s government agency for trade facilitation, according to a statement from the CCC, the Kingdom’s apex trade body.

The meeting was intended to provide the delegation – led by CCC vice-president Lim Heng – a better overview of: the city’s economic situation, the unique strengths of the region, and possible avenues of cooperation between Cambodian and Australian businesspeople, the statement noted.

At the meeting, Heng affirmed that, with the two representative offices open, the CCC will embark on a new chapter in the development in bilateral relations between businesspeople, traders and other private sector players. He suggested that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could serve as a tool to this end, the statement added.

The RCEP is the world’s largest trade pact, encompassing Cambodia, Australia and 13 additional Asia-Pacific countries.

Heng also shared provisional figures from Cambodian Customs (GDCE). The GDCE puts the Cambodia-Australia merchandise trade volume at $523.612 million in 2022, up 60.88 per cent on 2021, and notes that Australia was Cambodia’s 19th largest trading partner last year.

However, in light of the current economic downturn, bilateral trade clocked in at $164.460 million in the first four months of 2023, down 8.79 per cent year-on-year.

Cambodian exports to and imports from Australia in the January-April period were $118.735 million and $45.725 million, respectively down 6.05 per cent and down 15.22 per cent year-on-year, expanding the Kingdom’s trade surplus with the land “Down Under” by 0.78 per cent on an annual basis to $73.010 million, according to the GDCE.

Heng commented that strong Cambodia-Australia relations have been a significant catalyst for bilateral business and investment partnerships.

The CCC’s Melbourne office will be a major boost for businesses and investments in the two countries, given the Kingdom’s business opportunities and economic growth rate, he posited.

The trade body’s overseas outposts aim to enhance investor-to-investor relations, providing a hub for players to jointly discuss issues and find resolutions, he said, noting that the government is not footing the bill for the offices.

For context, the government on March 31 had issued two separate decisions formally establishing either of the CCC’s representative offices in Australia. The documents stipulated that neither office would be publicly funded, and that separate elections are to be held to elect a certain number of key members – 15 for the Melbourne office and 11 for Sydney’s.

Heng had previously shared with The Post that the Toronto and Sendai offices have been hailed for their efforts to promote cooperation between Cambodian investors and their counterparts based in their respective countries.

Burke remarked on the relatively rapid increases in bilateral trade volume and Cambodian exports to Australia over the years, hailing the CCC’s visit as an opportunity to expand investment between the two countries, according to the statement.

She underscored that Canberra has policies to support foreign entities intending to invest in Melbourne, and that it is looking to reach out to Cambodian private sector partners to discuss the RCEP.