Cambodia on May 20 launched the Cambodia Business Council (CBC) in Bangkok to serve as a one-stop centre for business trade and investment, as well as cultural and tourism exchanges between Cambodia and Thailand.

Initiated by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok as the first of its kind, the CBC serves as a platform to enhance the Economic Diplomacy Strategy 2021-2023 – launched on January 18 – and bridge economic diplomacy between regional countries and beyond, according to ambassador Ouk Sorphorn.

On the same day, Sorphorn told a first virtual CBC general assembly that his embassy is in constant engagement with the business community in Thailand and shares its views concerning economic diplomacy, promotes international trade and works to gain the attention of potential international investors.

He stressed the merit of maintaining cordial ties with neighbouring countries such as Thailand as a conduit for peace, security, stability and mutual economic perks.

“We are very austere and stalwart in our duty to peg away in support of the companies wishing to expand their operations to Cambodia in order to benefit from an inexpensive labour force, favourable tax environment, and incentive policies provided by the government.

“With the arrival of the Cambodia Business Council, I hope the partnership between the Cambodian and Thai business communities will be further strengthened for the mutual benefit of the two kingdoms.

“I also encourage the private sectors of both countries to actively participate in this mechanism and explore their potential for business cooperation to the fullest extent,” Sorphorn said.

The CBC's newly-elected president Sambath Sothea said the trade body will not only be about commerce, trade and the economy but also about tourism and culture-exchange.

“The idea of establishing the CBC in Thailand was an obvious one to me. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, but we can use them to develop and strengthen our relationships.

“As we all know, the CBC aims to be a one-step service for companies that would like to start business in Cambodia.

“But our mission is also to guide that which makes us unique into Thailand, and bring Thai products into Cambodia. When we all join forces as partners, we will become stronger in the face of globalisation,” he said.

The CBC's newly-elected vice-president Teerawat Jitjak, who owns many businesses in Thailand, said the council would be a “key game-changer” in building confidence among businesspeople of both countries.

“We are really happy to be a part of CBC, as it will serve as a bridge to bring Thai business people and investors to establish direct contact with the Cambodian side,” he said.

According to Sorphorn, Thailand is among the nine largest investors in Cambodia, pumping $967.89 million in foreign direct investment into the country between 1994 and the end of the third quarter of 2017.

He said more than 1,000 companies from Thailand have registered at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, including BJC BigC Group of Companies, Siam Cement Group (SCG) and Charoen Pokphand Group – the operator of CP All Pcl, which plans to bring the convenience store chain 7-Eleven to Cambodia, he said.

“Following the launch of CBC, Cambodia will also open [similar establishments] in other countries in the region, namely Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and so on in the future,” he said.

Trade between Cambodia and Thailand reached $7.236 billion last year, tumbling 23.17 per cent from 2019, primarily due to the economic disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Statistics show that Cambodia exported $1.148 billion in merchandise to Thailand in 2020, down 49.49 per cent year-on-year, and imported $6.089 billion, down 14.80 per cent from 2019.