The Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) says it’s optimistic that the implementation of a three-year economic diplomacy strategy recently rolled out by the government will boost exports and better expand international markets for Cambodian milled rice.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation earlier this year launched the 2021-2023 strategy, aimed at boosting international trade, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), promoting tourism and fostering cultural exchanges.

The ministry on June 11 held a first meeting with the private sector to discuss how to best implement the strategy.

CRF president Song Saran, who attended the meeting, expressed confidence that proper implementation of the strategy would diversify Cambodia’s export products and destinations, and promote international trade.

“Through the economic diplomacy strategy, Cambodia will be able to take advantage of opportunities from new markets for Cambodian products and services, as well as strengthen cooperation in international economic partnerships focused on bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements,” he said.

He said that the strategy is in line with CRF’s pursuit of promoting the reputation of quality Cambodian milled rice on the international market, to expand the Kingdom’s exports and achieve the government’s target of shipping at least one million tonnes of milled rice abroad per year.

“I urge all milled rice exporters to participate in friendship programmes to enhance already-good relations and to exchange views directly with players.

“I call on them to continue to promote the ‘Malys Angkor’ brand of Cambodian milled rice at Khmer restaurants abroad, which is a good strategy to promote Khmer milled rice directly through food,” Saran said.

Delivering a speech at its January 18 launch, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn likened the strategy to a compass designed with four cardinal orientations – improving the efficiency of economic diplomacy; accelerating economic growth; reducing dependence on foreign aid; and promoting Cambodia’s interests in the region and beyond, in a manner consistent with these four orientations.

Through the strategy, the ministry will act as a facilitator and promote existing mechanisms to attract FDI and increase growth in bilateral and multilateral trade, as well as to propagate Cambodian culture and values abroad and bring in more tourists, he said.

“Ensuring the successful implementation of this economic diplomacy strategy requires the participation of all stakeholders, so I hope that the ministries, institutions and stakeholders will increase support for the implementation of this strategic document to promote and expand national economic interests,” Sokhonn said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, sees the strategy as a “good initiative” that will play a role in promoting the Kingdom’s economic development.

He told The Post that regional and global economic slowdowns caused by the Covid-19 crisis had prompted the ministry to draw up the strategy, to increase efficiency in the work of its diplomats in a bid to boost economic and political development.

“In Cambodia, we have the tourism and agriculture sectors as those with the potential to attract foreign investment, and the government has made a number of reforms to develop key infrastructure to support them,” Vanak said.

The Kingdom exported 233,031 tonnes of milled rice worth $166.81 million to 47 international markets in the first five months of 2021, down by more than 34 per cent in volume year-on-year from 356,097 tonnes, according to the CRF.

The CRF ascribed the decline to a global shipping container shortage and rising maritime transport prices, fuelled by ongoing Covid disruptions in trade flows and other sectors that support international trade.

Cambodian milled-rice shipments to EU destinations were particularly hard hit, with sharp declines logged in January-May, it added.