Cambodia and Saudi Arabia are set to hold discussions on the draft of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the promotion of trade relations between the two countries. 

The step comes on the heels of an imminent agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the country aims to advance work in the Middle East in line with the government’s directive to enhance trade, tourism and investment.

Penn Sovicheat, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told The Post on January 17 that the authority held an internal meeting led by Tekreth Kamrang, a secretary of state at the ministry, to review the draft MoU on January 16. 

The move is intended to bolster trade and investment between the two countries and other Middle East nations.

“The internal discussion is to pave the way for negotiations to open a new market with Saudi Arabia. It will serve as a gateway to promote our products to Middle Eastern countries, while we are also [working with] the UAE on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement [CAM-UAE CEPA],” he said. 

“Reaching an agreement with these countries will not only expand our product range there but will also provide a gateway to African nations.

“We do believe that in the near future, there will be a significant increase in trade and investment from Arab countries. This will also enhance our ability to boost agricultural product exports to these and other surrounding nations,” he added.

On the sidelines of the inaugural ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this past October, Prime Minister Hun Manet met with his Saudi counterpart Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to foster trade and tourism.

Manet discussed the potential for enhancing bilateral relations to increase cooperation in key areas including trade, investment, energy and other sectors for the mutual benefit of both nations and peoples, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

On March 16, then-commerce minister Pan Sorasak and his Emirati counterpart Thani bin Ahmed al-Zeyoudi announced the formal conclusion of talks for the CAM-UAE CEPA via video link.

A CEPA is a type of free trade agreement (FTA) that typically includes more comprehensive coverage beyond commodities, encompassing services, investments, dispute resolution, intellectual property rights, government procurement and other forms of specialised economic cooperation.

The three formal negotiation rounds for the agreement took place from October 24-26 in Abu Dhabi, December 19-21 in Phnom Penh and February 20-22 in Dubai. 

According to the ministry, no official date has been announced for the signing of the agreement.

For reference, bilateral trade between Cambodia and Saudi Arabia reached $32.26 million in 2023, marking an increase of nearly 20%. 

The Kingdom’s total exports to Saudi Arabia amounted to $9.258 million, up 33.25%, while imports from Saudi Arabia were $23 million, an increase of 10.38%, as per the ministry.