What had been called The American Cambodian Business Council has been officially name-changed to the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, according to Amcham Chairman Bretton Sciaroni.
“Previously, the Ministry of Commerce had a policy not to allow independent business associations use the words ‘‘Chamber of Commerce”, Sciaroni said. “Recently, that policy has changed to allow other business associations to use the words chamber of commerce in the title of the organisation.”
Sciaroni, who serves as Managing Partner of Sciaroni and Associates and has been the Amcham’s chairman for a number of years, was one of the founders of the organisation.
“When we started it, I ran it out of the office, and I typed up the announcements myself to send out by fax,” he said. “Now it has grown into one of the significant business associations in Cambodia.”
In an interview last month, Sciaroni said Amcham’s important niche enabled it to do things other chambers could not do, including hosting inbound business missions, from places like Singapore, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.
“We also contribute to outbound business missions, usually with the US ambassador,” Sciaroni said.
“The current ambassador, William Todd, has traveled to Bangkok and Singapore and we’ve played a support role to attract US business to come to Cambodia.”
One of the distinctions between Amcham and other chambers, Sciaroni said, was special attention to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), about which the Amcham holds conferences.
“We have broadened this to include the Australian anti-corruption law and the British anti-bribery law and the Cambodian anti-corruption law,” he said. “We plan another such meeting for this fall.”
In addition to his chairmanship of Amcham, Sciaroni also serves as vice-chairman for ASEAN of the Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) as well as the International Business Chamber of Cambodia (IBC).
Sciaroni routinely attends regional APCAC conferences and promotes “Operation Doorknob”, a lobbying effort aimed at making conditions better for business.
“We lobby on trade issues, tax issues, visa issues and a host of things that affect our ability to do business. We lobby the Executive Branch of the US government as well as the US Congress,” he said.
Sciaroni also serves as co-chairman of the working group on Law Tax and Governence, a constituent element of the Government Private Sector Forum, along with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Keat Chhon.
Sciaroni says even though there is a great deal of conversation about investment in Myanmar, Cambodia has a very attractive business climate, right here, right now.
“Having been there, I can tell you Myanmar is not as ready for business, but you can do business today in Cambodia. We’re getting all the laws in place, with international standards, a high rate of growth and political stability.
All the elements for successful business are here, so American companies are coming in.”
He acknowledges that corruption and inefficient courts remain problematic.
“There is still an issue of corruption; an inefficient court system, but even those issues are being addressed by the government which has created an anti-corruption unit. For dispute resolution we are creating a national arbitration centre so disputes can be resolved more efficiently.”
The American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia was founded in 1996 and now has 85 corporate members including a number of large multi-national companies. Amcham hosts monthly events and programs including a Corporate Social Responsibility effort headed by board member Daniel Mitchell.
Executive Director Jim Swander says other Amcham committees include Events & Programs as well as Membership. Amcham’s web site is www.amchamcambodia.net