Based on the numbers, economic ties between the United Kingdom and Cambodia are improving. In the first nine months of this year, bilateral trade between the two reached $750 million, and the full-year figure is expected to hit $1 billion. After having been in Cambodia for two and half years, Mark Gooding, the UK ambassador to Cambodia, is wrapping up his term. He sat down with the Post’s Hor Kimsay to talk about the climate for British businesses, and how there is always room for reform.
How has the relationship between the countries developed over the last several years?
It’s grown stronger and stronger. The UK continues to support the development of Cambodia, both political and economic. We still provide funds in a number of areas. For example, we have funded mine action programs, we are funding health, democracy and human rights, child protection, criminal justice, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [the Khmer Rouge tribunal], and scholarships for Cambodian students.
What have both countries been working on in terms of economic cooperation?
We have a very strong dialogue on issues related to Cambodia’s business environment, such as rules, tariffs and other regulations. Bilateral trade between the two countries is increasing every year. Cambodia’s main exports to the UK include garments, textiles and rice. British exports to Cambodia include luxury cars like the Land Rover and Range Rover, electronics and machinery. Many British companies have gained good experience investing here, so I believe there will be more British investment in Cambodia.
What are some specific examples of companies that have come here and done well?
There are a lot of sectors. We have three big UK garment manufacturers here. Quantum Clothing (Cambodia) Ltd has been operating locally for more than 10 years and has been expanding. But British investment has been moving beyond garment and textile, to service sectors such as education, finance, tourism, construction and design, and also agriculture. We have at least eight British or Britain-affiliated companies working on the Vattanac skyscraper in Phnom Penh.
Do you see areas that need improvement?
Overall, companies investing here have positive experiences. But specifically, there are two issues in which investors are always interested in seeing reform. The first one is anti-corruption. The more action to eliminate corruption, the better. The second important issue is good governance. For instance, transparency of judicial reform is going to help because companies sometimes need to rely on the law if they have a problem.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity