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Export diversity induces growth

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Alassane Sow, World Bank country manager for Cambodia, speaks Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 at an ASEAN Economic Community workshop in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

In order for Cambodia to maintain the same rate of growth it has enjoyed in the past few years, exports need to diversify from textiles and tourism to modern services, said the World Bank’s country manager yesterday in Phnom Penh.

“Cambodian firms are already tentatively exporting some niche services such as computer-based animation. Modern-services exports play a more important role in Cambodia as a source of employment, revenue and investment,” Alassane Sow said at the National Workshop on the theme of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015: Opportunities and Challenges for Cambodia’s Trade in Services.

“In the regional context, Cambodia should benefit from the implementation of the AEC to attract investment from services firms to serve the region and the world. Cambodia should act quickly to address potential competition from other least-developed and developing countries across the regions that are also expanding their services industries,” he said.  

Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce and ASEAN Economic Minister for Cambodia said Cambodia has done a lot of works in setting up legal frameworks and regulations to improve in trade and service since joining the World Trade Organisation in 2004.

He said on the latest “AEC Scorecard” Cambodia has achieved more than 70 per cent of the key deliverables required under the AEC, ranking third behind Singapore and Malaysia.

“As chair of ASEAN we must lead by example and demonstrate, through our commitment to ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and deeper ASEAN and East Asian regional integration, that we accept both the opportunities and responsibilities that are involved, by showing that we have nothing to fear from openness and competition as we strengthen and diversify our economy and build our nation,” he said.

Due to a lack of understanding and knowledge about ASEAN-AEC matters, Cambodia’s private sector is still not fully ready for the regional economic integration in 2015, according to the president of the Cambodian Economic Association, Chan Sophal.

ASEAN matters do not appear much in the agenda of local business meetings and linguistic barriers and a lack of background knowledge prevent business leaders from understanding relevant materials, Chan Sophal said yesterday at the 2012 Development Research Forum during the presentation of the results of a joint 2010 study with Larry Strange, executive director at the Cambodia Development Resource Institute.

He said the least prepared private sector groups “tend to be those who lack the capacity to follow what is going on at the international or regional level. They tend to be local businesses who lack the language capability.”

According to Hiroshi Suzuki, CEO and chief economist, Business Research Institute for Cambodia (BRIC), Cambodia will benefit from establishing the AEC in terms of trade in services.

“Cambodia has good opportunities because of its good location and cheap labour. There are some challenges, because the neighbouring countries are also strong competitors.”

To contact the reporters on this story: May Kunmakara at kunmakara.may@phnompenhpost.com
Anne Renzenbrink at anne.renzenbrink@phnompenhpost.com

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