EU-ASEAN Business Council Encourages Investment in Cambodia 

The EU-ABC visited Cambodia on Oct. 24-26 and met 13 ministries and Prime Minister Hun Manet. Photo supplied

PHNOM PENH – Europe sees potential for investment in the transition to green energy and digitalization in Cambodia, calling for investors to come and learn about the country.

“I think Cambodia has an awful lot of opportunity going forward, and the government is putting in place the right policies, the right sort of reform agenda as well,” said Chris Humphrey, executive director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC).

The council was established about 10 years ago to improve trade and investment between Europe and Southeast Asia for the benefit of European industry. 

“We are officially recognized by the ASEAN Secretariat, and by the European Commission, but we are completely independent of both,” said Humphrey. 

“So we work to serve the interests of our members and our members are very large-scale European multinational corporates, some big household names people like you might know like Bosch or BMW.”

Chris Humphrey is the executive director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC). Photo: Moeurn Makthong​​​

Investment potential

The EU-ABC visited Cambodia on Oct. 24-26 and met 13 ministries and Prime Minister Hun Manet. The visits aimed at learning about the new investment policy and opportunity as the country is now led by the new head of the government.

“It's an opportunity, particularly now here in Cambodia, with the new government to understand what their policy direction is, what their desires are from European industry, and how we can try and drive more trade and investment,” Humphrey said.

Chhay Bora, a government affairs and public policy expert, said many organizations and foreign governments had engaged with the PM and administration in two months. 

They aimed to learn the government’s approach to the political economy and foreign policy, particularly regarding trade, investment policy and the digital economy, he said.

“This week’s mission saw the participation of more than 20 global companies that are keen to forge stronger partnerships with the new government. 

“Prime Minister Hun Manet and his Cabinet members warmly welcomed the delegates to Phnom Penh, sending a clear message that Cambodia is committed to improving the ease of doing business to attract more quality investment into the country.”

Bora, who is also managing director of the strategic advisory firm BowerGroupAsia’s (BGA) Cambodia office, said mission delegates engaged in robust discussions with the PM and key members of his administration.

Chris Humphrey of the EU-ABC said the meeting with the Prime Minister revealed Cambodia's desire to enhance human capital, upskill and train personnel for better healthcare and environmental care. 

“You're strategically placed here in Southeast Asia and you're part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” he said. “So, you shouldn't play that down. That's a big thing for Cambodia.”

Humphrey said Cambodia has the most forward-looking policies on energy transition in the region as European businesses are experts in this space. He said people were empowered by digitalization whether it be smartphones, internet connectivity or digital training.

“There are more traditional sectors, like textiles. We all know about agriculture too, so why not? You've got a lot of farmland here, you can do a lot more with your agricultural output,” he said.

About 70 deletions of the EU-ASEAN Business Council and 20 company representatives met with Prime Minister Hun Manet on Oct.24 to discuss potential investments. Photo provided

What might be the challenges?

Understanding the local market is the key challenge for foreign investors in Cambodia, Humphrey said. Getting the right permissions and permits as well as licenses in place are complicated issues.

“But I must say what we're hearing from here, when we had a good meeting with the Cambodian Development Commission, at the beginning of our trip on, Tuesday, everything seems to be heading in the right way.

“Things are being made easy for companies to come in to get the solutions to meet those investments, the government is clearly open for business,” he said.

He suggested that offering great opportunities is not enough. The government needs to sell itself more to the rest of the world.

“We would play our part in that kind of our role in the Business Council is to raise awareness back in Europe, about the potential of all of Southeast Asia. And we're more than happy to do that and work with the government,” Humphrey said.

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