In his address at the opening ceremony of the 20th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, Prime Minister Hun Manet underscored the importance of trade and cooperation in navigating the uncertainties of the global landscape. Held under the theme “Work Together for a Harmonious Home and Shared Future,” this year’s expo offers an opportunity to promote sustainable development.
Hun Manet began by congratulating the host nation on the expo’s 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). He emphasized that cooperation paired with free and open trade is the sole path to peace and shared prosperity. The prime minister highlighted the remarkable collaboration within ASEAN-led regional architecture, specifically mentioning the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and several bilateral trade agreements. These initiatives have contributed to the growth of trade between the bloc and China, which amounted to $722 billion last year.
Despite the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the movement of goods has remained robust while the movement of people has declined. Hun Manet emphasized the essential role of commerce in ensuring global socio-economic security. Looking ahead, he acknowledged new challenges arising from the pandemic, such as rising commodity prices, food insecurity, and climate change. Trade plays a crucial role in addressing these global issues, and it should not be exploited as a weapon that undermines economic security on a global scale.
Hun Manet highlighted the significant roles played by the ASEAN bloc and China in demonstrating the benefits of improved multilateral cooperation without resorting to excessive protectionism or economic nationalism. He emphasized the need to maintain interdependence through the development of new markets, supply-linked production capacity, and trade facilitation.
The prime minister also stressed the importance of two-way investment and technical support to ensure that developing countries can genuinely benefit from market openings resulting from multilateral trading mechanisms. He reiterated the government’s commitment to enhancing the business and investment environment in Cambodia by reducing costs and improving infrastructure.
Hun Manet’s remarks resonate with the current global political and economic situation, emphasizing the necessity of open and free trade for prosperity and peace. Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relation Institute, commended Hun Manet for highlighting the potential negative consequences of trade wars and sanctions, which often victimize smaller countries in the pursuit of a particular counter’s political agenda.