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UK Trade Envoy Pushes FDI, British Brands

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Phnom Penh Port. Chhor Sokunthea

The United Kingdom sees Cambodia as a strategic location at the heart of a transportation network through Thailand, Vietnam and Laos to reach China and other countries in the region and the world, a senior UK trade official said yesterday.

Stephen Lillie, director for Asia-Pacific at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made the comments during a presentation called “The UK and Asia Pacific in the 21st Century” in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Rising foreign direct investment (FDI) is a “win-win situation” for everyone, Mr. Lillie told the gathering of government officials and business leaders. He said ethical business practices could also make Cambodia a more attractive location for FDI. FDI also helps improve the pool of human resources because foreign firms offer international-level training to their employees, increase choices for consumers and raise the bar for business practices, Mr. Lillie said.  

“UK trade and investment presence here is now about to enter its third year and we are proud to be working side by side with BritCham in supporting their efforts,” Mr. Lillie said. “Today British business plays an important role in Cambodia development and I am delighted that even in the short space of time as I have been in Phnom Penh to see UK household names such as Range Rover, Prudential, GSK, and Costa Coffee prominent in this market,” he added

UK Ambassador Bill Longhurst said that Cambodia offers plenty of opportunities for trade and investment. He added that Cambodia can have higher valued-added production and has more potential for FDI as large Asian companies seek to diversify their production bases in Thailand and other neighboring countries. 

“There’s a lot of opportunity here, and our concern is that political developments don’t get in the way of those opportunities,” Mr. Longhurst said, urging the government to move fast to ensure that the country becomes as attractive a base for foreign investors as it can. He also noted that competition in the region is rising.  

The British Chamber of Commerce (BritCham) has identified several areas for investment, including: agribusiness and food processing; tourism infrastructure; education, architecture, construction, and engineering services; household goods and appliances; automotive; power generation equipment and power transmission infrastructure; pharmaceuticals; and medical supplies and equipment.

Chan Sophal, a director of the Center for Policy Studies, was less upbeat about investment in Cambodia. The country’s strategic location is good, but it lacks the deep-water ports that Thailand and Vietnam have. As a result direct shipping faces constraints, Mr. Sophal said. “Cambodia has a port, but it cannot receive large cargo vessels because it is shallow,” he explained. He urged the government to improve transportation infrastructure for both sea and land routes. 

Chea Socheat, a director of the Commerce Ministry’s department for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said that Cambodia benefits greatly from it duty and quota-free access to the EU market. He also noted that the recently launched Industrial Development Policy will see more garments and footwear exported to the UK and EU as a whole.  

“Cambodia now is pushing exports to the UK and the top 10 agricultural products, including corn, soybean, rice, pepper, rubber, cashew and cassava are priority exports to the UK and EU,” Mr. Socheat said. Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK rose from about $749.01 million in 2013 to $807 million last year, according to the Commerce Ministry, which put total exports to the UK at just $56.45 million last year.

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