Cambodia and Oman have agreed to upgrade cooperation in trade and investment, identify priority areas, and explore the grounds to draw up agreements that resonate with both countries’ unique resources and abilities, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

The consensus was reached at a meeting between commerce ministry secretary of state Tek Reth Kamrong and newly-appointed Omani ambassador Saleh Mohamed Ahmed al-Suqri at the ministry on March 2, the ministry said in a statement later that day.

Prior to the Covid-19 era, imports and exports between the two countries had historically been very low. But that changed in 2020-2021, when trade reached a total of about $5.5 million over the two years, comprising mainly of textiles, fertilisers and minerals, the statement revealed.

For reference, the latest figures posted on Trading Economics indicate that Cambodian imports from Oman amounted to $2.85 million – or 99.86 per cent of bilateral trade – in 2020 alone, of which “fertilisers” and “salt, sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime and cement” stood at $1.65 million and $1.00 million, respectively. Statistical discrepancies and asymmetries in trade figures are common between sources, however.

At the meeting, Reth Kamrong said that, underpinned by past cooperative achievements, the Kingdom and the sultanate can expect relations to be strengthened and preserved in all fields, especially in trade, during al-Suqri’s “meaningful” diplomatic mission, according to the statement.

She briefed the Omani delegation on the Kingdom’s three-year comprehensive “living with Covid” roadmap, which is based on three pillars – recovery, reform and resilience – and also known as “The Strategic Framework and Programmes for Economic Recovery in the Context of Living with Covid-19 in a New Normal 2021-2023”.

This instrument, along with the remarkable achievements of national Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, have ushered in the resumption of socio-economic activities across all sectors, she said.

“In this regard, I would like to encourage Omani investors to seize investment opportunities in Cambodia, by establishing production bases, participating in regional supply chains and investing in Cambodian products with potential, including milled rice, rubber, bananas, mangoes, electronics, travel goods and textiles,” Reth Kamrong was quoted as saying.

The ambassador praised the Kingdom for its sound investment climate, level of political stability and continued Covid-19 inoculation success, according to the statement.

Oman reaffirms its commitment to boosting bilateral ties and deepening cooperation, especially in the areas of trade, tourism, international ports and chambers of commerce, al-Suqri said.

He also invited Omani and Cambodian leaders and businesspeople to visit the other country and take part in exhibitions, and spoke of the possibility of establishing memorandums or other agreements that dovetail with priority areas pursued by both countries.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, says that the free trade agreements (FTA) under Cambodia’s belt, including those with China and South Korea as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will be a driving force for investment, and could improve the Kingdom’s historically weak trade and investment ties with Oman.

Omani investors could cash in on the benefits provided by these trade pacts, by opening up shop in the Kingdom and producing or processing merchandise for export to target markets, he suggested.

“Although investment and trade activity between Cambodia and Oman is still low, I believe that easing the terms and conditions of the new Cambodian Law on Investment – and the entry into force of the trade agreements – will help improve trade relations between the two countries going forward,” Vanak said.