Economic and political experts express optimism about enhanced ties between Cambodia and the EU, anticipating increased investment and exports. 

Prime Minister Hun Manet discussed trade and cooperation with EU ambassador Igor Driesmans at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on January 9. 

Following the meeting, the envoy affirmed ongoing collaboration, welcoming extended partnerships in various sectors. Manet, in response, expressed satisfaction, praising EU support and aspiring to boost trade and investment opportunities in Cambodia.

Ky Sereyvath, director-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s (RAC) Institute of China Studies, recalled on January 10 that the Kingdom’s relationship with the EU experienced discord when the EU chose to withdraw tariff preferences granted under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme. This decision was a response to perceived violations of human rights principles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

He noted that while the partial EBA withdrawal had not caused severe impacts, it did tarnish Cambodia’s reputation. 

“I believe that during this mandate, the prime minister will put forth his best effort to rebuild and strengthen the relationship with the EU. This aims to boost the EU market for Cambodia’s exports and attract more investment from the EU,” he said.

He noted that the government’s Pentagonal Strategy aims to create an inviting investment climate in Cambodia, not only for partnering with the EU but also for countries and investors globally. 

“With these improvements, Cambodia anticipates gaining a larger and more robust economic momentum, aiming to achieve upper-middle-income status by 2030,” Sereyvath said.

Kin Phea, director of the RAC’s International Relations Institute, stated optimism about the ongoing relationship and cooperation between Cambodia and the EU.

He said that he sees positive signs indicating willingness and commitment from both sides.

He added that the EU and Cambodia share several sectors where collaboration can thrive. Overall, the EU’s disagreements with Cambodia primarily revolve around minor issues, particularly political space, the democratic process and the opposition in Cambodia. 

“However, in my view, all these matters pertain to Cambodia’s internal legal aspects. The government of the seventh mandate has outlined strategies and reform policies to enhance job opportunities, investment and trade with partners,” he said.

Phea said the government’s diplomatic efforts primarily focus on economic outreach, aiming to diversify markets and sectors. When Manet meets foreign partners abroad, he routinely underscores enhancing the investment climate, legal framework and standards to encourage foreign investors. 

“I’ve noticed many other positive signs. The Cambodian and French governments have shaken hands, and Western voices on Cambodia’s internal political issues have quieted down. 

“So, this is an opportunity for Cambodia to expand and strengthen its relations and cooperation with other countries regionally and globally,” he said.

During his meeting with Manet, the EU ambassador expressed his optimism that government reforms can enhance investment attractiveness in Cambodia.

He also said he appreciates the government for closely cooperating with the EU Business Council, having resolved challenges and facilitated investment.