Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen told the 17th China-ASEAN Expo on Friday that the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated greater need to uphold multilateralism and international cooperation.

Hun Sen made the remarks during the opening ceremony of the expo via video conference.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented and severe crisis on the economies and societies across the globe.

“In spite of that, this crisis vividly bears a testimony for greater need to uphold the principles of multilateralism and to strengthen international cooperation,” he told the event.

He added that countries need to adapt to the New Normal to address confronting challenges and to promote sustainable and resilient socio-economic development.

The Cambodian prime minister said the crisis has underlined the importance of promoting the development of digital society and economy.

He said digital technology has been playing a vital role in our adaptation to the new context of living and working by facilitating inter-communication in the region and the world, as well as connecting economic, trade and investment activities.

“Certainly, accelerating the development of digital connectivity in the region and digital transformation of society and economy will become key drivers in the revival of the economy in the post-COVID-19 and sustainable and resilient development in the future,” Hun Sen said.

“China is one of the countries that are at the forefront in developing, investing and utilizing digital technology in the world,” he said. “In this regard, advancing cooperation in the area of digital technology, under the Belt & Road Initiative, will be an important agenda in the future.”

Joseph Matthews, senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said the expo clearly shows China’s unfettered commitment to further opening up its economy and a huge market for ASEAN.

“It is an open message to the world that China is open for business, and China means business only, no politics!” he told.

“The expo also expresses ASEAN-China’s firm commitment to promoting a multilateral trading system”

He believed that through the expo, ASEAN exports to China will be accelerated, and Cambodia, as a member of ASEAN, will greatly benefit from this exposition.

“China is the biggest market of Cambodian agricultural products, and after this expo, the agro-business between two countries will take a new turn, undoubtedly,” Matthews said.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, said deepening China-ASEAN economic cooperation contributes to regional economic recovery and the enhancement of the open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral system.

“Cambodia and China share the same world view on promoting multilateralism as the basis for peace, security and prosperity,” he told.

Vannarith said that the China-ASEAN Expo is an important platform for economic exchanges and strengthening, diversifying and expanding economic relationships under the auspices of China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which is the catalyst of regional trade and investment cooperation.

ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.