Cambodia and the EU have renewed their commitment to improve bilateral trade and investment relations despite the ongoing economic downturn due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The EU was Cambodia’s largest trading partner in 2018, accounting for 45 percent of the Kingdom’s exports that year, with 95.7 percent entering the bloc under tariff concessions under the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade regime. From the European Commission. Overall, Cambodia was the second largest user of the EBA option, behind only Bangladesh.
However, Cambodia’s trade with Italy was relatively small compared to other EU member states.
Paolo Dionisi, the newly appointed Italian Ambassador to Cambodia who resides in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, spoke to May Kunmakara of “The Post” about his mission to bring trade and investment between the two countries to a new level.
Could you give a brief introduction to the current state of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and Italy?
The Italian government has good and friendly relations with many Southeast Asian countries, including the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Deepening and intensifying relationships in all areas is my main goal.
To this end, we not only benefit from the incredible momentum created by Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022, but we look forward to future opportunities for deeper and more structured dialogue at bilateral and EU level.
How do you plan to improve bilateral trade relations, which have historically been quite limited?
It is true that the volume of trade between our countries is still quite moderate, but I was happy to find that the total volume of trade has not only increased in 2021 compared to 2020, but has also increased by 12 percent, although it has already shown a positive trend. epidemic, in 2019.
It is certainly a good foundation, but I am sure that there is still huge room for improvement: within the bilateral and EU authorities, we will do everything we can to reduce any barriers to a freer and more multilateral trading environment.
What local sectors are Italian investors and entrepreneurs interested in?
The Cambodian market is dynamic and is increasingly attracting the interest of many Italian investors and entrepreneurs. Our brands and companies, which are trying to attract more to the Kingdom, are already very grateful for the quality of production and design that Cambodian consumers are familiar with.
In this regard, the Embassy will continue to support the activities of the Italian-Cambodian business association, which will expand its membership and scope of activities in the coming months.
In order to have a large base of Italian companies operating in Cambodia, I am working on merging this organization with the Italian Chamber of Commerce already operating in Thailand.
Cambodia’s economy can provide great investment opportunities for our businesses in many sectors such as construction, food and beverage, manufacturing, agricultural machinery, pharmaceuticals, design, furniture, fashion and tourism.
As Italy’s new ambassador, I aim to help our entrepreneurs, together with all the Italian agencies and organizations operating here, open up this new market and take advantage of the opportunities.
In January 2021, Cambodia launched the 2021-2023 Economic Diplomacy Strategy to promote trade, investment, culture and tourism with the outside world. What will this initiative bring, especially in terms of developing economic relations?
I think the comprehensive approach behind this Cambodian initiative is right and I congratulate the Cambodian government for this action.
Italy has a very similar vision of promoting its economic system abroad. Launched almost a year ago, the BeIT campaign seeks to internationalize our companies and promote a more complete and updated picture of our best energies and talents.
In this context, we will launch new events and initiatives in the country, which we believe will strengthen the cultural relations between our two peoples and have a positive impact on tourism and economic exchange.
How do Italian investors view the Kingdom’s latest bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements and initiatives to diversify export markets, particularly in the region and the West?
Using the agreement, the growing market in this part of the world will make Cambodia more attractive to Italian companies. I am confident that Italy will be increasingly involved and active in Cambodia and the rest of ASEAN.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.