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Cambodia Sees Opportunity for US Investment in Agriculture

Cambodian Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh speaks during the 17th GMS Ministerial Conference at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, file photo.
WASHINGTON DC - Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh sees great potential for US companies that want to invest in agriculture, where he says they can do legitimate business relatively free from the graft as Cambodia makes anti-corruption headway.

Cham Prasidh was in Washington last week, where he and other officials marked the 45th anniversary of the US-Asean Business Council. He said American companies are typically not aggressive in overseas investments and prefer to invest in a “clean” country. Not so with China, he said.

“The Chinese are not waiting for the house to be clean to come in,” he said. “That’s why they are the pioneers of Asian countries to invest in Cambodia.”

Cambodia is trying to “clean” its own house, he said, but at the same time it should be attractive as an “open and liberal economy.” And it is trying to leverage its status as a lesser developed country, with trade preferences to big markets in the US and Europe, he said.

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Cambodia also has its Anti-Corruption Unit, which is enforcing a new anti-corruption law. So corruption, he said, “I believe in the near future, this thing is not going to be a problem anymore for US companies.”

That said, Cambodia landed in the bottom 20 countries on the annual Transparency International corruption index this week, along with Afghanistan, Burma, Laos and North Korea.

Meanwhile, Cambodia is looking more and more toward agriculture to drive its economic growth, hoping to boost the export of rice and other goods considerably.

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As a part of Asean, it is looking toward more regional integration, Cham Prasidh said. “This is a very integrated region, where you would see a free flow of goods, a free flow of services, a free flow of skilled personnel, a free flow of investment, and a free flow of capital.”

But Cambodia also wants investment form the US, “our indispensable trading partner,” he said.