THE AmCham business mission to Hong Kong in late May was led by US Ambassador Carol Rodley and included several AmCham members from Cambodia. The Hong Kong AmCham hosted a breakfast for us, and about 40 people came to learn about Cambodia. But what was most impressive was not the number of interested parties, but the intensity of their interest. No one left the breakfast early, and many of the audience had questions during the formal presentation. And many stayed after the event to continue the discussion. And since the breakfast, a number of the participants have followed up with emails and visits to Phnom Penh. One participant decided to invest in Cambodia, and this was featured in a TIME magazine article. (See below)
Over the years, Cambodia’s AmCham has sent business missions to many cities in the region, including Singapore, Bangkok, and Saigon. We highlight some of the positive attributes to investment in Cambodia. And we have hosted a number of business missions from regional AmChams. We also have assisted in visits by the US-ASEAN Business Council and we have provided support for trade and investment conferences, like the one that will be held this October. And it should be noted that the US Embassy always supports these missions.
We take our outreach program very seriously. But, qualitatively speaking, the May mission to Hong Kong was the best one yet. I think that the reason for our success is that US business in China is looking for alternative investment destinations in Asia. As operating costs – particularly labour costs – continue to rise in China, businesses are looking for other countries in which they can set up. If they do not intend to move out of China entirely, they are looking for another venue where they can establish similar factories and thus hedge the risk of sole sourcing out of China.
Cambodia presents a largely unknown investment destination, but I believe that there is a tremendous opportunity for this country. I am very encouraged by the reaction our business mission received.
The US has always played an important role in Cambodia’s economy. Most of Cambodia’s garment exports are sold to the US. But in recent years, many blue chip US companies have come to Cambodia. Since the early days, we had stalwart companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Caltex here. But in recent years, American business has greatly expanded, with companies like Crown Cork, General Electric, Royal Crowntex, Dupont, Microsoft, Ford, Chevrolet, and many others are now present. Most recently, the upstream division of Chevron has set up here. And there are now US companies migrating from China, like Fair Manufacturing and First & Main, which produce consumer goods for export.
Thus, the AmCham in Cambodia has played an important role in promoting US-Cambodian economic relations, and will continue to do so for the future.
Bretton G. Sciaroni is Senior Partner in Sciaroni & Associates, and also has served as Legal Adviser to the Royal Government of Cambodia since 1996, a position which has the rank of Minister. He is a founding governor and has served as Chairman of AmCham since 1996. He also serves as Chairman of the International Business Chamber (IBC). In addition, Mr. Sciaroni is Co-Chairman of the Working Group on Law, Tax and Good Governance, one of the mechanisms for private sector dialogue with the Royal Government. He has served in this capacity since 2000, along with his Co-Chairman, Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, the Minister of Economy and Finance. Sciaroni obtained his law degree from UCLA and is a member of the District of Columbia Bar. He has lived and worked in Cambodia since 1993, making him the longest serving foreign lawyer in the country.
Note to readers: It was during the AmCham Cambodia May 25th Hong Kong breakfast event that American businessman Charles Hubbs, whose company, Fortunique, manufactures medical equipment for the American market – got interested in moving operations to Cambodia. Hubbs was quoted by TIME magazine as saying labour prices at his factory in China had increased by fifty percent during the last two years. TIME also quoted Harley Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in South China, as saying “The era of cheap labour in China is over.”