October 23, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Manet has called for free and open trade, the stimulation of investment and the creation of a conducive environment to promote business between ASEAN and the Gulf states, as the two regions seek to strengthen ties at their historic first-ever ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council (ASEAN-GCC) summit on October 20, in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.
Manet had a busy week of diplomacy from October 16, when he departed Cambodia for the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in the Chinese capital Beijing, followed by the ASEAN-GCC summit, before arriving back in the Kingdom on October 21.
During the summit, the heads of state and governments of the two regions reviewed and set the future direction of ASEAN-GCC relations, while also exchanging views on regional and international issues. Manet emphasised the important role of trade and investment in fostering economic growth and sustainability, according to a statement on the outcome of the summit, released by the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
“[Manet] highlighted the critical need to support free and open trade, stimulate investment and create an environment conducive to the promotion of business between the two regions,” it said.
In line with the economic trends of the 21st century and in response to global uncertainties.
Manet urged ASEAN and the GCC to explore new sources of growth in key areas such as connectivity, digital economy, green energy transition, banking and finance, regional supply chains, artificial intelligence (AI) and innovation.
“[Manet] underscored that the two regions are linked by ancient and rich cultures and civilisations, presenting great potential for further strengthening tourism cooperation.
“Against the backdrop of climate change that continues to pose many challenges to food security, he urged GCC members to explore the possibility of further investment in agriculture in ASEAN member states and promote exchanges of technologies, research and best practices, especially in developing the halal food industry,” added the ministry.
Manet also expressed concerns and regret over the recent escalation of conflict and violence between Israeli forces and Palestine-based Hamas militant group, noting that it has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives, including a Cambodian student in Israel.
He held the strong belief that the GCC member states are in an excellent position to urge all of the parties concerned to exercise the utmost restraint and engage in dialogue towards a ceasefire. He said that only a truce can pave the way for a peaceful, just and lasting solution.
He also emphasised the need to ensure full access for humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas, in accordance with international humanitarian law, according to the ministry.
Both sides pledged to make their relation stronger, and agreed to hold an ASEAN-GCC summit every two years, with the second summit slated to take place in Malaysia in 2025.
On the sidelines of the summit, Manet also held bilateral talks with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and Saudi Fund for Development CEO Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said there are many sectors through which both regions could forge their ties and cooperation, with a particular emphasis on the digital economy, as many countries in ASEAN are embarking on a new era of industrial revolution.
He said digital development in the region, as highlighted by Manet, is in line with the development around the world.
“It would be good if the two regions agreed to a policy for waterway or railway connections, particularly to and from ASEAN and Saudi Arabia, as transportation cooperation will solidify trade between the two regions,” Phea added.
He also urged more cooperation on oil and gas, as Arab countries are rich in oil. Closer cooperation in this segment would stabilise oil prices in ASEAN, avoiding fluctuations which affect economic growth in the region.