Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) is forging on with plans to open representative offices in Europe and the US next year in a bid to shore up trade and draw in more investment, its vice-president Lim Heng told The Post on Wednesday.

He said the government issued a sub-decree last year that allows the CCC to open said offices in other provinces.

But Covid-19 threw a huge wrench into the CCC’s plans, he lamented.

“We had initially planned to open a representative office in Europe and in the US early this year. We were all set to open an office in Canada after reaching a consensus between our Cambodian business associations, but we decided to postpone due to Covid-19,” Heng said.

He said all representative offices would be opened in ethnic Khmer communities with a president elected among business associations and administrative staff.

“It is paramount for us to have representation in those countries that house a great deal of Cambodian communities and serve as a business and investment information platform to all investors.

“As part of our aspiration to spur investment and trade with distant countries, our offices will be instrumental in providing consultancy for businessmen and investors,” Heng said.

Anthony Galliano, the CEO of financial services firm Cambodia Investment Management Co Ltd, told The Post that the CCC’s plan makes complete sense as a strategic move to introduce and position the Kingdom as a trading, production, investment and manufacturing hub in ASEAN and as a viable alternative to competing neighbouring countries.

He said: “Cambodia needs to be on the radar screen and have share of mind when major corporates in these jurisdictions are making decisions to expand into Asia.

“Having the capacity to lobby and market the Kingdom’s capabilities and advantages is a major asset, and with representation on the ground, deals for the country can be struck easier and with volume.

“The US and Europe are the largest importers of the Kingdom’s goods, but not major players of incoming FDI [foreign direct investment] to Cambodia, thus the value of the relationship is based mainly on consumption of low value goods.

“Having a footprint in the largest economic zones should accelerate trading and investment between parties, and consequently be a competitive advantage.”

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia president Van Sou Ieng told The Post in July last year that Canada is one of the largest markets for the Kingdom’s garment industry, after Europe, the US and Japan.

He said garment shipments from Cambodia to Canada amount to about $300-$400 million per year.

Speaking at the third edition of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum (IPBF) last week, US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy noted that the Kingdom is a regular benefactor of US products and services.

He said the Cambodian private sector actively works with the US government and its individual agencies to create financing vehicles and grow their businesses.

He highlighted the dramatic growth in US-bound Cambodian exports in recent years.

The US is the largest market for Cambodian exports, taking in $5.4 billion last year, up from $3 billion in 2015, Murphy previously said.

Cambodia exported $2.75 billion worth of goods to the US in the first half of this year, up 23 per cent from $2.24 billion in the same period last year, the US embassy in Phnom Penh reported.

The US provides the Kingdom with preferential trade access under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, enabling duty free access to the US market for more than 5,000 products, the embassy has said.

Nearly $1 billion in travel goods were exported to the US last year under GSP, Murphy added.