Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn on January 18 announced the launch of the “Economic Diplomacy Strategy (EDS) for 2021-2023” as a framework for future diplomatic and cultural initiatives. Sokhonn also unveiled a collection of traditional recipes dubbed The Taste of Angkor.

The new strategy prioritises economic issues and instructs diplomats to move beyond traditional diplomacy and seek opportunities for the country’s economic diversification.

Speaking at the event, Sokhonn said the EDS was developed over the course of two years and focused on four goals consisting of the promotion of the tourism sector, international trade, foreign direct investment (FDI) and fostering cultural exchanges – including the showcasing of Khmer foods.

He said the ministry will promote existing mechanisms to attract FDI, expand bilateral and multilateral trade and entice tourists to visit by exhibiting Cambodia culture abroad.

To this end, the ministry is training a new generation of professional diplomats who will actively promote national interests across all sectors.

Sokhonn said: “This EDS is designed to contribute to strengthening economic growth, reducing dependency on foreign aid and promoting Cambodia’s interests in the region and around the world.”

In the last two years, the ministry has made efforts to promote economic diplomacy through developing human resources and produce materials for a public awareness campaign sharing information about the nation’s economy, trade, investment opportunities and tourism.

These materials will be used by diplomats when meeting political leaders, business people and international visitors. The materials are also intended for use during trade and culture fairs and forums with foreign companies.

Sokhonn described Cambodia as bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as geopolitical conflicts between superpowers and the 20 per cent suspension of the EU’s Everything but Arms’ (EBA) trade scheme.

But strategies put in place by the government would facilitate stark reforms to draw investors and help restore the country’s economy.

“The situation clearly shows us that we need to change the way we work by moving from traditional diplomacy to a strategy that focuses on the promotion of economy, culture and tourism. That is to say, we will implement a foreign policy which places prosperity as its core priority. No country is successful without prioritising economic issues on its diplomatic agenda,” Sokhonn said.

He went on to urge all diplomats receiving foreign guests to utilise the cookbook The Taste of Angkor which details more than 30 entrees including prahok and amok. The cookbook should also be given to guests as a souvenir.

The Taste of Angkor book. Photo supplied

Cambodian ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche lauded the new strategy as providing clear direction. With support from the foreign ministry, he and other ambassadors had already begun applying principles of economic diplomacy, citing as an example information about the investment atmosphere in the Kingdom he had provided to entrepreneurs in South Korea’s private sector.

“In order for us to implement these four strategies, we require clear instructions and policies with regard to the substance of what economic diplomacy entails. This is why this strategy paper is important,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the transition to economic diplomacy is necessary because diplomats must represent Cambodia not only on a political field but also with reference to the economy, so as to attract more investors to the nation.

“We see that the foreign ministry is making efforts to build the capacity of diplomats. They will represent Cambodian interests in all sectors, not limited to politics, economy, culture and education,” he said.