CAMBODIA’s golden opportunities for trade and investment

ថ្ងៃព្រហស្បតិ៍ ទី ១ ធ្នូ ២០១៦​

Cambodian garment factory workers toil at the W&D garment factory, just southeast of Phnom Penh, April 28, 2004. Cambodia's garment industry has grown from 49 factories in 1996 to more than 200 factories today, employing 240,000 people. But as the end approaches for a special deal between the United States and Cambodia linking labor rights to trade quotas the workers are worried for their futures. (AP Photo/Isabelle Lesser)

By Grand News Network – GNN

Phnom Penh, November 30th, 2016 (GNN) – Cambodia’s economic growth has been remarkably strong thanks to garment exports, rice, tourism, and construction, just to name a few. However, agro-business industry—such as palm oil, rubber, tapioca, and pepper—still plays a small part.

The Kingdom’s yearly GDP growth was around 7%. Many economists foresee Cambodia’s outlook as still positive, given that the country, neither this year nor next years, has not had and will not have any political turmoil or regional impacts.

However, Cambodian stakeholders and the government should look into how the Kingdom’s growth can benefit the poor more rather than just talking about GDP growth. Such economic growth—which is a bit different from economic development—should be seen as a partial contribution to the country’s democracy. The greater the country’s development, the greater the role of democracy can be.

Cambodia’s exports of the sector have increased sharply thanks mainly to U.S. trade preferences of GSP/MFN since 1996, which were key in exports increasing from only $4.2 million to $103 million in 1997 (they were phased out in 2005).

Cambodia’s exports to the U.S. market were more than $134 million in 1998, the year that the government dismantled the political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge as the rebels and surviving Khmer Rouge leaders surrendered to the government under Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia’s total exports rose to more than $8 billion in 2015, from almost $7 billion in 2014. Cambodia’s exports were mainly garments and rice.

Cambodia’s export to U.S. alone in 2015 was more than $3 billion, an increase from more than $2.84 billion in 2014.

There are now more than 1,300 factories, of which 77% are in the manufacturing which employs around 780,000 workers, most of them are young female from the countryside.

The sector accounts more than 20 per cent of the country’s GDP of $18.5 billion and accordingly contributes not only to the economic development but also to the strengthening democratization process. And this trend would continue to be so in the next five years thanks to the confidence of the concerned stakeholders.

Freedom of trade and human rights need to be protected to sustain the democracy in Cambodia. If you want to shape the game, you should engage in the game and play by the rule of the game, which means that more Chinese and Western companies should invest in a free and open Cambodia.

Both Beijing and Washington should encourage more investors and businessmen to explore the business opportunities in Cambodia with special focus on manufacturing and touristic sectors.

Cambodian trade expert Sok Siphana said that “….. Cambodia’s exports look positive thanks to the fact that ASEAN’s links with the external free-trade and comprehensive economic partnership agreements…. “. End.

Garment workers make Adidas apparel at the Shen Zhou garment factory in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, October 18, 2011.