Economics determines politics. Economic security is national security. Economic performance defines regime legitimacy. As a small and open economy, open and inclusive regionalism and international economic integration are the strategic compass of the Kingdom.
Against this backdrop, the new administration in Cambodia has exhibited a noticeable shift in its foreign policy priorities, focusing on economic considerations. It can be argued that economic pragmatism is one of the key features of Cambodia’s foreign policy in a new era.
Cambodia’s economic diplomacy has been remarkably gaining momentum under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Manet. His relentless efforts to achieve national economic interests can be seen in numerous overseas visits and his meetings with foreign guests in the capital, all with the primary objective of economically connecting Cambodia with the world.
Each overseas visit demonstrates Cambodia’s economic pragmatism and strategic diversification strategy to extract the maximum benefits from existing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to advance Cambodia’s economic interests. In other words, how to transform the international environment and partnerships into a source of national growth and strength.
In 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation unveiled a comprehensive economic diplomacy strategy (2021-2023). This strategy sets ambitious goals, including the promotion of international trade, attracting foreign direct investment, boosting tourism, and promoting Cambodia’s cultural identity.
The strategy underlines the importance of establishing a robust and efficient mechanism that would sustain and further enhance the country’s economic growth by fostering multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration on both national and international fronts. Systemic approaches are required.
The key challenges identified in the strategy include insufficient qualified human resource, an insufficient financial resources to carry out the implementation of relevant action plans, lack of cross-sectoral coordination and an effective information sharing platform between the relevant actors, and lack of nation branding campaigns and lobbying activities.