Since the turn of the century, ‘economic pragmatism’ — the alignment of foreign policy with economic development interests — has shaped Cambodia’s foreign engagement. The Cambodian government sees globalisation and regional integration as central to advancing its national economic interests. Cambodia has proactively participated in regional and sub-regional mechanisms, such as ASEAN-led multilaterals and Mekong-related minilaterals.
The government’s Rectangular Strategy Phase IV (2018–2023) recognises the global economic shift to East Asia as a ‘golden opportunity’ for Cambodia to develop and modernise its industries, production and services. Integrating Cambodia’s production network with the region, developing infrastructure connectivity, and facilitating the cross-border flow of goods, services, capital and data are crucial foreign policy instruments. ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea are Cambodia’s key economic partners.
While its external environment affects Cambodia’s economic performance, internal factors are just as important. Continuous economic reforms and human resource developments are the backbone of Cambodia’s remarkable economic performance over the past two decades, with a growth rate of about 7 per cent. Foreign policy has played a key role in protecting and advancing Cambodia’s national interests, including peace, economic security and cultural identity.