Hong Kong Investors are eyeing the western province of Kampong Speu to set up garment, footwear and travel bag factories, according to local officials.
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Kampong Speu Governor Vei Samnang said more than 10 companies from Hong Kong want to invest in factories in his province, creating thousands of jobs for residents.
He said some of the investors plan to move their factories from Myanmar to Cambodia. One of these has pledged to set up a factory in Kampong Speu by next month, which will create about 5,000 jobs initially, expanding to more than 10,000 at full capacity.
Mr Samnang said most of the Hong Kong investors will focus on brand products to supply the global market. They are interested in Kampong Speu province because of its strategic location, which easily links to the deep seaport in Sihanoukville, and its good infrastructure connections via road, rail and air.
“Most of the Hong Kong investors trust Cambodia in terms of political and economic stability, the young labour force, and opportunity to access the global market such as the US, Japan, EU, Canada and other countries,” Mr Samnang said.
Kampong Speu province shares borders with Pursat and Kampong Chhnang to the north, Kandal to the east, Takeo to the southeast, Kampot to the south and Koh Kong to the west.
Mey Kalyan, a senior advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council, welcomed the move, saying Kampong Speu is a good location since it is close to Phnom Penh and connected to National Road 4, with access to Preah Sihanouk province.
“The fact that travel bags can be exported to the US duty free is to our advantage,” Mr Kalyan said.
He added that Cambodia should diversify to other high value products, claiming the country has sufficient human resources to do so.
Mr Samnang said there are currently 119 factories in Kampong Speu province, mostly producing garments and footwear. They have created about 90,000 jobs for local people and workers from provinces nearby. He added there are another 130,000 jobs related to handicraft and small and medium-sized enterprises operating in Kampong Speu.
In July last year, the US government granted duty-free benefits for Cambodia for the export of travel goods such as luggage, backpacks, handbags and wallets under its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
Garment and footwear makers, together with the government, recently asked the United States to give Cambodia preferential trade terms for footwear exports, as the US prepared to review the GSP.
Preference systems let developing countries export certain goods to donor countries at reduced tariff levels. At present, Cambodian footwear, textiles and garments are excluded from the GSP, because the US government wants to protect its local industries.
Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said many types of footwear were once import sensitive, but most are now made entirely overseas.
“I think it is an appropriate time for the United States government to review the GSP programme for poor countries like us,” he said.
“The GSP has been offered to poor countries since 1974 but garment and footwear products have never been included. As far as I know, the US government is going to consider granting GSP on footwear, that’s why we have to ask Washington to consider offering it to us too.”