Cambodia and Bangladesh made a fresh push yesterday to revive dormant bilateral trade initiatives, with Phnom Penh hosting the first-ever conference and exhibition for a delegation of leading Bangladeshi companies.
Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Thailand and Cambodia Saida Muna Tasneem admitted trade between the two developing nations was minimal, amounting to just $6.7 million annually, but said the two countries have potential to cooperate for mutual benefit.
“I firmly believe that utilising comparative advantages and complementarities of our manufacturing industry and global imports and exports, the two countries have every potential to double bilateral trade volume and diversify bilateral trade baskets within the next half decade,” Tasneem said.
Both nations have pushed for greater economic ties in the past. In 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Bangladesh to meet with his counterpart, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, signing several agreements, including the creation of a joint trade council headed by the countries’ respective commerce ministers.
The joint council has yet to meet, Tasneem said after the conference, but she hopes to revive efforts to convene meetings between the two commerce ministries as well as create a joint chamber of commerce for their private sectors.
She sought to dispel the notion that Cambodia and Bangladesh were rival low-cost garment producers, with little to offer each other economically.“There is a huge information gap in terms of what Cambodia can export to Bangladesh and what Bangladesh can export to Cambodia,” she said.
“We produce products that Cambodia doesn’t and Cambodia produces products that we don’t.”Current global economic conditions are favourable for closer ties between exporting nations like Cambodia and Bangladesh, the ambassador told the audience, stating, “With the stripping of the TPP this morning by US President Donald Trump, there are new horizons looking out for Bangladesh and Cambodia.”
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said there were opportunities for investment and trade in several sectors for the more than two dozen industry and company representatives that joined him to travel to the Kingdom.
“Trade between the two countries is almost nothing and therefore it is our job to see how best we can develop trade and investment between the two nations,” he said.
One suggestion he posited was that experienced Bangladeshi garment workers, supervisors and investors could come to Cambodia to help develop its garment industry.
“We the Bangladeshi investors are also waiting to hear from the Cambodians, what you have to offer to us, and what we can invest in,” he said.