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What the US elections mean for business in Cambodia

US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and US President Barack Obama speak directly to each other during the second US presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, last month. Photograph: Reuters

US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (L) and US President Barack Obama speak directly to each other during the second US presidential debate in Hempstead, New York, last month. Photograph: Reuters

With the results of the US presidential elections expected to be announced later today, The Phnom Penh Post asked a selection of business people what the outcome could mean for business in Cambodia, and who they would prefer to win.

Ken Loo - Secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia

It will affect the Cambodian garment industry only via the US economy. The election will only impact our industry via the impact on the US economy. We’ll have to see how it develops.

Kang Chandararot - President of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study

I don’t believe that there will be any impact to our economic ties between the two countries due to the fact we don’t have much of a financial market link with them like other Asian countries such as China and Korea. Moreover, the investment from the United States to our country is still small, so I do hope that there will be no change in our economic ties with them.

Ross Darrell Feingold - Asia chairman of Republicans Abroad

Mitt Romney is a better candidate for the business environment in Cambodia because from his long experience as an investor, Romney understands the importance of free trade among nations. He desires to expand trade ties between the United States and its trading partners. This is contrasted with President Obama’s record of not pursuing expanded trade whether via bilateral free trade agreements, or though expansion of multilateral relationships within the World Trade Organization framework or between the US and ASEAN. In fact, unions that are President Obama’s biggest supporters have encouraged him to oppose trade expansion, in order to protect uncompetitive United States industries. Not only does this decrease exports from countries such as Cambodia, but it also keeps prices high for US consumers during a time when many families are struggling to pay their bills, causes job losses in shipping and logistics industries, and decreases the likelihood our trading partners will create a welcome environment for US investment.

Longdy Yi  - President of youth leadership development organisation AIESEC

In terms of the exchange programs of AIESEC, the outcome of the US election would have no major impact at all; our exchange number would decrease or increase depending more on the effectiveness of our internal work, rather than who wins the election.

I don’t think the result of the election would pose any major impact on the educational exchange between Cambodia and the US either. I don’t think it’d be likely that any administration, if winning, would suddenly cut down the quota of Cambodian students sponsored to go study in the US, for example.

However, looking at how much interest Obama has had over ASEAN (for example, by coming to Cambodia), such attention may continue with an Obama administration. The question then would be if Romney’s administration will bring more attention or less to Cambodia, which I don’t have enough knowledge and understanding about to comment on.

Yang Saing Koma - President of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC)

I don’t think I expect any change. In terms of Cambodia, there is no impact. Actually we are also exporting rice to the US, so I hope there is no change. Because we export organic rice to the US market and I don’t expect that to change.

John Muller - Global Security Solutions Cambodia

I believe whether Republican candidate for presidency Mitt Romney, or our current Democratic Party president, Barack Obama, wins the election, the outcome will be the same. America announced its shift in focus from the Middle East to Asia, especially, SE Asia a year ago.

There are many reasons, both economic and political. Number one, the US is fearful of China becoming the next superpower. China’s influence in SE Asia, particularly Cambodia, is of great concern. As we see with the lifting of US sanctions in Myanmar, the strong growing relationship between Vietnam and now the move back into Cambodia, the outcome of the election will be positive for Cambodia. US policy will not change.

We only need to look back 10 years ago when the new, latest, high-security embassy was built in Phnom Penh. This major commitment was an early sign that the US was soon going to take more interest in Cambodia and its neighbours. I also believe Prime Minister Hun Sen has been very wise in having an open policy to discuss partnerships with any nation that is willing to benefit the Cambodian people by providing economic aid, business investment, jobs and opportunities to market their products to the largest market in the world – the US.

Chhay SivLin - Vice president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents

I personally think any win would have the same impact for business development in Cambodia. The key is the relationship between Cambodia and the US. It is better and better from day to day. In the last few months we have seen US business groups and Cambodian business groups meeting to discuss more business opportunities. This will bring more jobs for Cambodia and better economics.

Wayne Weightman - Former chair of Democrats Abroad in Cambodia

Generally speaking, when Democrats are in the executive office, or when we have a Democratic president, they have been the best years for our economies. If you want to cast that wider, I guess it would have good effects on other economies. We have great confidence in Obama, who diverted us from a potential depression and I think he deserves four more years to complete the great work he’s done so far.



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