Long-time foreign members of the Cambodian business community said the US-ASEAN Business Forum, held on Friday in Siem Reap, was largely successful in setting the country in the sights of America businesses, but multinational corporations will need more time in the Kingdom before nailing down hard deals.
The forum, which put companies such as Boeing, FedEx and Procter & Gamble into the same room with some of Cambodia’s biggest firms, was the largest meeting between the two countries’ business communities. General Electric signed a US$3 million biomass power deal with local firm Soma Group.
“A lot of businesses had never been here before, and it was an eye-opener for them,” Bretton Sciaroni, chairman at the American Cambodian Business Council, said yesterday. “Some big companies came in before the financial crisis and then left. GE is one of the companies that came before the crisis and stayed.”
The US business delegation was led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Speakers included Prime Minister Hun Sen, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and Myanmar President Thein Sein, who was not originally scheduled to speak.
For companies with little experience in the country, more trips and meetings would be necessary to square away partnerships and deals with Cambodian companies, said Rami Sharaf, chief executive at RMA Cambodia, which represents Ford, John Deere and several other international brands.
“With this kind of squeezed time, and with all the speakers there, it was more of a formal event,” he said yesterday. “These corporates should not expect that they will enter two meetings and come out with signed agreements. This was an ice-breaker.”
One of the main functions of the forum was to serve as a showcase for successful international-domestic co-operation in the country, Sharaf said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at [email protected]