Prime Minister Hun Manet addressed the opening ceremony of the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, China, on September 16, expressing his belief that amid growing global uncertainties, the expo would provide an opportunity for the attendees to forge closer relations while helping to promote sustainable development.
This year’s expo is being held under the theme “Work Together for a Harmonious Home and Shared Future”.
He used his initial remarks to congratulate the host nation on the 20th anniversary of the expo, as well as the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“Above all, it shows that cooperation combined with free and open trade is the only path to peace and shared prosperity,” he said.
He highlighted the excellent cooperation that exists through ASEAN-led regional architecture – including the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and several bilateral trade agreements – while noting the expo’s contribution to increasing trade between the bloc and China. Last year, trade between the two reached $722 billion, he added.
“When Covid-19 upended the world, the movement of people declined, but we saw first-hand that the movement of goods continued to flourish. In 2021 and 2022, trade in goods even exceeded pre-pandemic levels – highlighting the essential role of commerce in ensuring the socio-economic security of people around the world,” he said.
“As the pandemic subsides, we face new challenges such as rising commodity prices, food insecurity and climate change. I would like to highlight the important role of trade in tackling these global challenges to ensure that interdependence and globalisation are mutually beneficial. Trade should not be used as a weapon that undermines global economic security,” he added.
He identified the ASEAN bloc and China’s key roles in demonstrating the benefits of improving multilateral cooperation, without the need for excessive protectionism or economic nationalism.
Manet also reiterated the importance of maintaining their interdependence via new markets, supply-linked production capacity and trade facilitation.
The prime minister also highlighted the importance of two-way investment and the provision of technical support.
“Such support will help ensure that developing countries truly benefit from the market openings resulting from multilateral trading mechanisms,” he explained.
He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continually improving the Kingdom’s business and investment environment, through reduced costs and improved infrastructure.
“Our aim is to raise productivity to meet the needs of all investors. Cambodia is committed to collaborating with all government and private-sector stakeholders in the region to support trade activities that will address regional and global challenges,” he said.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relation Institute, said Manet had raised a straight forward point, which reflected the current global political and economic situation.
He added that only open and free trade can bring prosperity and peace, while preventing trade wars and other sanctions that may serve a particular counter’s political agenda.
“We have seen trade wars and sanctions serve as barriers to free trade through protectionism or unilateralism. These means have been applied by superpowers against their rivals, but often victimise smaller countries,” he said.