Cambodia and Laos have agreed to increase cooperation in trade, investment and tourism as trade between the countries shows no sign of growth.
The commitment was made by the leaders of the two countries in a sidelines summit of the Mekong River Commission in Siem Reap on Wednesday.
The aid is to push trade between the countries higher than the current $20 million.
Compared with neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, where trade is worth $6 billion and $3.8 billion respectively, trade with Laos is flat.
Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith expressed concern at the trade volume and asked Cambodia to help increase it, Eang Sophalleth, assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said at the meeting.
Cambodia and Laos have tourism growth potential, Mr Sophalleth said. Mr Hun Sen would examine whether local airlines can add direct air route to Lao cities Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
Commerce Ministry spokesman Seang Thay said trade between the countries appeared to suffer because they have similar products and both need export markets.
“Cambodia welcomes to trade cooperation with all countries, but with Laos it is hard to boost trade,” he said.
However, Laos was the biggest electricity-producing country in the region and the two countries might see a rise in trade.
Mr Thay said he was optimistic that the new mechanism of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar cooperation would contribute to upgrading the trade of the two countries.
Figures from Tourism Ministry showed that 502,219 tourists came from Laos last year, up 36 percent, representing nine percent of Cambodia’s total. Almost all came by land.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, echoed Mr Hun Sen’s remarks about encouraging more direct flights between the two countries.
“Closer cooperation in the tourism sector will give mutual benefits for both countries because Laos is well known for eco-tourism, like Cambodia, and for cultural tourism,” Ms Sivlin said.
“If we can increase direct flights, particularly between the most attractive tourism areas, it will be good for the two countries.”