General-Secretary of the Communist Party and President of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, started a two-day state visit to Cambodia yesterday with the aim to further enhance the traditional friendship and strategic partnership between two nations.
Cambodia highly values good relations with its immediate neighbors, based on the belief that the Kingdom’s development success cannot be detached from a stable and dynamic region. Active regional integration has been the key foreign policy strategy.
A number of bilateral deals will be signed to further deepen economic, security as well as people-to-people ties between both countries. Educational exchanges will also gain new momentum.
Vietnam has offered support to Cambodia to mitigate the risks emanating from the recent imposition of tariffs by the European Union on Cambodia’s rice. Hanoi has made it known explicitly that it would import more agricultural products from Cambodia.
Vietnam News Agency reported that, “Over the years, the two sides have maintained and made effective use of cooperation mechanisms, increased the exchange of visits and meetings and signed many documents serving as a foundation for bilateral cooperation.”
Trade volume between Cambodia and Vietnam reached $4.68 billion in 2018. Both sides aim to achieve a trade volume of $5 billion by 2020. In terms of investment, the accumulated capital from Vietnam reached $33.8 million. Cambodia has invested $63.42 million in Vietnam. In addition, Vietnam is the second largest source of foreign tourist arrivals to the Kingdom, with 800,000 Vietnamese tourists visiting Cambodia in 2018.
Although there is significant progress in bilateral economic cooperation, the potential for growth remains huge. But importantly, both countries can do much more to realise their economic potentials, particularly by removing barriers to cross-border trade and facilitating the two-way flow of investments.
It needs to be noted that since 2016, Cambodia-Vietnam ties have remarkably improved after years of a certain degree of distrust, particularly after the failure of the 45th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2012 when both countries were in serious disagreement over the South China Sea issue.
Vietnam has adjusted its foreign policy strategy towards Cambodia after the leadership reshuffle in 2016 when the faction of General-Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong became a dominant political force. General Secretary Trong’s powerbase has further been consolidated after he was also appointed as the President of Vietnam in October last year.
Notwithstanding his consolidate power, General-Secretary Trong remains a consensus-type leader who pursues and empowers collective decision within the party and state institutions. He earns respect through his genuine political will and determination to fight against corruption.
His personal commitment and dedication to bilateral relations with Lao PDR and Cambodia have contributed to the foundation of the traditional friendship among the three countries. His worldview is that small states must stay united to protect their independence, sovereignty, and self-determination.
Increasingly China’s economic and political clout in the Mekong region has structurally forced Vietnam to assert its traditional leadership role in Indochina. Over the past two years, Vietnam has taken concrete measures with strategic vision to cement strategic as well as economic ties with Lao PDR and Cambodia.
Vietnam’s key political message has been consistent, which is small states must stay united to resist against external interference by any major power and collectively deter the attempt of any major power to build a hegemonic power in the region. Cambodia shares a similar position that emphasizes a good relationship with immediate neighbours as the basis for long-lasting peace, stability and prosperity.
The key outstanding issue between the two countries relates to border demarcation. Around 16 percent of the demarcation remains to be completed and both, Cambodia and Vietnam, have agreed to seek technical support from France to resolve the differences and conclude the border demarcation as soon as possible.
Looking forward, both countries need to create a mechanism to monitor the progress of implementation of the bilateral agreements and expand the areas of cooperation. People-to-people ties, especially between young leaders of the two countries, need to be further boosted. Track-two diplomacy should be explored and developed.