Cambodia has asked Ankara to talk Turkish airlines into launching direct commercial flights to the Kingdom as soon as possible, postulating that the move would unlock great benefits in trade, investment and tourism between the two countries.

The request came during a January 12 business roundtable held at the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) – the Kingdom’s apex trade body – on the occasion of the two-day third Cambodia-Turkey Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting in Phnom Penh concluded a day earlier.

Speaking to The Post following the roundtable, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak said direct flights would greatly promote public and private cooperation in all areas, accelerate the growth of bilateral travel flows, and give Turkish investors a chance to enter the Cambodian market and profit from the Kingdom’s bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTA).

The minister expressed hope that a first direct air link between the two countries could be launched within the year.

Moreover, Cambodia and Turkey could work together to develop their respective economies, he suggested, adding that their merchandise is by and large not in direct market competition with each other.

“For example, Cambodia has a lot of agricultural products and Turkey has sophisticated processing technologies, so they’d complement each other to meet domestic and export demand,” Sorasak said.

CCC president Kith Meng described Cambodia’s developing status as a “good opportunity” for Turkish investors, saying that the Kingdom boasts a large export market, favourable investment laws, bilateral and multilateral FTAs, and preferential trade arrangements with a number of jurisdictions.

Meng hopes that this, along with the “good relationship” between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will swiftly convince more Turkish investors to bet on the Kingdom.

He also proposed direct commercial flights to link the two distant countries, in addition to an annual Cambodia-Turkey Business Council meeting and biannual business forums.

Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Vahit Kirisci hailed the collaborative achievements notched up by the two countries across the full spectrum of bilateral relations, and vowed to work to sell Turkish airlines on direct commercial flights to Cambodia as soon as possible.

Commerce ministry figures show that trade between the two countries has remained fairly limited over the years, reaching just $462.63 million in the five years from 2017-2021, with 2021 alone accounting for $90.63 million, up 2.06 per cent over 2020. The annual average from 2017-2019 was a bit higher at $94.4 million.

In January-November 2022, the bilateral trade volume came in at $136.149 million, up 63.6 per cent year-on-year.

Major Cambodian exports to Turkey comprise garments, textiles, footwear, travel goods and milled rice, while key imports include machinery, pharmaceuticals, glass panels, iron and steel, and plastics, according to the ministry.