A US state senator has wrapped up a trip to Cambodia, where he was looking to improve trade ties.
Sen. Don Benton, from Washington state, told VOA Khmer that Cambodia has many business opportunities, compared to other Asean countries.
“American businesses should be looking at their presence in the Asean community,” he said. Cambodia’s physical location, geographically, is “right in the center of that economic community.”
Critics of Cambodia’s business climate say it is mired in corruption and inefficiencies that can make it problematic to invest in.
But Benton pointed to tax and duty benefits, widespread high-tech communication and other benefits that make Cambodia worthy of consideration for investors. And he said corruption is becoming less prevalent.
“They are cleaning it up, and you can do business there in the open, without having to get involved in unethical practices,” he said. “That’s a big message the American government can help relay to American businesses, that the [Cambodian] government is very serious about corruption and cleaning it up.”
In an eight-day trip that ended last week, Benton met with the ministers of Commerce, Agriculture and Tourism, as well as high-ranking officials close to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We certainly want to do more business with Cambodia, so our mission was about increasing business opportunities for Washingtonians in Cambodia and about increasing import opportunities for the country of Cambodia as well,” he said.
Potential businesses include rice milling, tourism, canning operations, cool storage and textiles, he said. Those kinds of businesses and others will increasingly succeed as Cambodian power costs decrease, he said.
Cambodia’s ambassador to the US, Hem Heng, said US investment should come to Cambodia, where there is now peace and stability—not just for the Cambodian market of 15 million, but for the Asean market of 600 million people.
That means a lot of opportunity for investment, in construction, power, agribusiness and tourism, he said.