PHNOM PENH - Cambodia is ramping up efforts to attract US investment, especially because it benefits from trade preferences due to its status as a least-developed country, Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh says.
“We have an open and liberal economy,” the minister told VOA Khmer in an interview in Washington, where he was working to find more US investors to consider Cambodia.
Cambodian products can be imported duty free to a number of markets, including Europe and Canada, the minister said. And it can be a gateway to the markets of Southeast Asia, which has 600 million people, he said.
“This is a very integrated region where you would see free flow of goods, free flow of services, free flow of skilled personnel, free flow of investment, and free flow of capital,” Cham Prasidh said. “So it means that Asean would be a little bit like the European Union, except that we are not imitating everything from the European Union. And we’re united in diversity. This is something that is very important.”
Investment in agriculture could be especially appealing to US companies, Cham Prasidh said. Cambodia wants to boost its trade volume and exchange, he said. “And we have to use all the facilities that are offered.”
But critics say many investors from the West are put off by the high costs associated with graft in Cambodia, which is among the world’s 20 most corrupt countries, according to the US-based Transparency International.
That translates into greater costs for doing business, from licenses and other expenses in setting up a business, running it, and transporting and shipping goods. And that companies might look elsewhere.