Cambodia’s foreign trade patterns
Like most other Southeast Asian nations, Cambodia’s relationship with the international world truly began during the colonial period when the French colonized it. Its entrance into institutions of modern international relations is fairly recent. In 1955 Cambodia became an ASEAN member state. It is also a member of the United Nations, and several bodies within the UN, and in 2004 became the 148th member of the World Trade Organization. Its involvement with these organizations, and Western nations, is still limited, however, by disputes over human rights issues in Cambodia, particularly in the treatment of minority groups.
The majority of interactions between Cambodia and the rest of the world, particularly the West, are through trade. The European Union and the United States are the two largest recipients of clothing exports from Cambodia. New Zealand and Cambodia have had a close relationship since 2003 when New Zealand provided what at the time was the largest peace keeping force to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country. Since then Cambodia has signed many bilateral trade agreements. Many immigrants and refugees from Cambodia have also moved to New Zealand, making the ties between the two countries stronger. Most Western nations who have relations with Cambodia also give aid to varying degrees.
Because of its location between the two, Cambodia has always had strong ties to both Vietnam and Thailand. This can be highlighted by the Cambodian conflict, in which both neighboring countries played a role to some degree: Vietnam, in invading and ultimately installing a puppet regime, and Thailand in receiving Khmer Rouge refugees. Since UN aided elections in 1993, relations with Vietnam have been much smoother although many Cambodians today resent and openly protest the Vietnamese economic and political influence on Cambodian society. Relations with Thailand are still a little strained due to political refugees who have moved into Thailand and land disputes between the two nations. China and Japan also play a large role in foreign policy decisions within the country.