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Cambodia, Nepal Leaders Encourage Trade Between Countries

Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, center, greets Cambodian government officials upon his arrival at Cambodian National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Premier Hun Sen and visiting Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli encouraged businesses in their countries to explore mutual trade and investment opportunities.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Nepalese counterparty K.P. Sharma Oli on Tuesday encouraged business communities in their countries to explore mutual trade and investment opportunities, while the countries also signed two agreements that would foster such trade.

Nepal’s premier is on an official three-day visit to Cambodia and both leaders spoke at a Cambodia-Nepal Business Forum in Phnom Penh, which was attended by businesses representatives from the two countries.

Hun Sen made a pitch for business opportunities in Cambodia, which he said has, “Political and macroeconomic stability, an open economy for investors without discrimination, a labor force that is diverse and young, and Cambodia is in a strategic location in ASEAN.” Hun Sen urged Cambodian businessmen to also seek out opportunities in Nepal.

K.P. Sharma Oli said he would welcome Cambodian investors to his Himalayan country.

On Monday, Cambodian and Nepalese officials signed a Framework Agreement on Trade and Investment, while the Chamber of Commerce of Nepal and the Chamber of Commerce of Cambodia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Bilateral Cooperation.

Nepal has a GDP slightly bigger than Cambodia’s at $24 billion, according to World Bank figures, while it has nearly double its population at 29 million inhabitants. Like Cambodia, international tourism is a major industry, but unlike Cambodia, Nepal lacks garment or manufacturing industries and is landlocked and situated in the Himalayan Mountains.

Trade between the countries remains very small. From 2014 until the first six months of 2018, bilateral trade between the two countries totaled just $170,000, of which Cambodian exports of textile products and clothes were worth $120,000, according to Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce figures.

Chheang Vannarith, a regional affairs analyst, told VOA that, nonetheless, there is some potential for trade and investment, for example by Cambodian entrepreneurs who could invest in Nepal’s tourism and microfinance, sectors that are well developed in Cambodia.

In recent years, Cambodian microfinance institution Acleda Bank has opened offices in Myanmar, another low-income country.

"Nepalese entrepreneurs look less developed than Cambodians, but it can be a joint venture [between them]… Like between Myanmar and Cambodia, the trade potential is low, but it is a starting point. It is a new trend, the flow of trade between two poor countries,” Chheang Vannarith said.