Cambodia and Vietnam pledged closer cooperation in all areas and agreed to expedite the completion of their joint Economic Connectivity 2030 Master Plan by year’s end.

The agreement came as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn wrapped up his March 20-22 official visit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

“[Sokhonn] expressed his satisfaction with the excellent relationship between the two countries which has grown from strength to strength in all areas and at all levels despite unprecedented challenges facing the region and the world,” said a press release from Cambodia’s foreign ministry.

At their 20th Joint Committee (JC) meeting, both sides reviewed the progress of the implementation of projects related to the agreed minutes of the 19th meeting, held in December 2021. In order to strengthen cooperation at all levels – and in all fields – they agreed to promote regular exchange visits between officials at all levels, especially along their common borders. Sokhonn invited Vietnamese foreign minister Bui Thanh Son to co-chair the 21st meeting, which will be convened in Cambodia next year.

On the economic front, the ministry said that with Vietnam currently one of Cambodia’s largest trading partners in the region, the two sides agreed that economic cooperation must be a priority area.

“Despite the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the two-way trade volume grew remarkably, reaching $10.57 billion by 2022, an increase of 10.88 per cent on the previous year,” it said.

It is to maintain this momentum that the economic connectivity master plan must be implemented as soon as possible, it added.

They agreed to implement the signed memorandum of understandings (MOU) and agreements, including those on the transit of goods.

“These will serve the bilateral, regional and international agreements to which both sides are parties, in particular the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP],” said the release.

“Both sides will encourage businesses to explore opportunities for the joint development of a Cambodia-Vietnam Special Economic Zone inside Cambodia’s territory,” it added.

“The Vietnamese side expressed their willingness to join Cambodia in studying the feasibility of establishing a rail link between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, along with an expressway,” it said.

Hong Vannak, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s Institute of International Relations, said that cooperation between neighbouring countries brings harmony to border areas and makes it easier for people to make their livings.

“Of course, Vietnam is not only Cambodia’s neighbour but also one of its largest investment partners,” he told The Post.

“Vietnamese development in many areas, especially agriculture, has been ahead of Cambodia for years, as they are major exporters of processed agricultural products. Therefore, we can learn a lot from them,” he added.