A resolution to Cambodia’s year-long political standoff would spur a new flow from foreign investors eyeing the Kingdom, US Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd said yesterday.
Todd was speaking at a joint press conference with Minister of Commerce Sun Chanthol after a five-day trade mission by the two to the US aimed at promoting Cambodia as a destination for foreign investment.
The ambassador said many companies were poised to invest in Cambodia but were waiting for the political deadlock following last year’s July election to be broken.
“Frankly, I think companies are looking for a resolution, and once there is a resolution, I believe that the market is going to take off, and at that point many businesses will come,” Todd said.
Since the July 28, 2013, vote, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has refused to take its seats at the National Assembly, alleging widespread corruption and electoral fraud. Stop-start negotiations to end the deadlock have so far failed to find a resolution agreeable to both parties.
Speaking on the sidelines of yesterday’s conference, Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, who also joined the delegation to the US, said there were other regional factors in the Kingdom’s favour.
Pointing to the coup in Thailand and tensions in Vietnam over a sovereignty dispute with China, Sciaroni said that a resolution to Cambodia’s political standoff could be a big benefit for its foreign investment prospects.
“I think there is a feeling that given this year’s problems in Thailand and given the problem that occurred in Vietnam, if they had good news out of Cambodia and the opposition came into the National Assembly, it couldn’t help but to increase the chances for investment,” he said.
Commerce Minister Chanthol, who met with international firms including General Electric, Wal-Mart, Chevron and Microsoft during the trade mission, said soft drink giant Coca-Cola was close to investing in a new plant in Cambodia, and that stabilising the political environment would help shore up this commitment.
“I would like to see the opposition CNRP go to the National Assembly. That is the place to debate, to discuss policy, strategy of the country. You don’t discuss strategy and policy on the street – it does not work,” he said.
The impact of the standoff on investment has not been lost on the opposition.
The opposition’s chief whip, Son Chhay, said: “At the CNRP we take this very seriously. We appreciate the good companies, would like to see Cambodia have a settled political program, to give them confidence in investing their money here.”
Chhay said he had been in discussions on the topic of investment with public and private sector representatives in Japan, Singapore and Europe.
He also asked for patience from firms eyeing Cambodia and said a fruitful outcome from political negotiations was critical to a stable business environment.
Providing greater accountability of ministers through electoral reform would give foreign businesses more confidence in stronger government institutions Chhay said.
“By having a free and fair election, having strong instructions in place, this is what good investors want to have,” he said.
Most issues in the political negotiations have been resolved, according to Chhay, but the opposition is still waiting on the ruling party to come back with an alternative for the two-third majority rule that it proposed for elected members of the National Election Committee he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said last week that he was not willing to budge on the rule.