While many French companies still hesitate to invest in Cambodia, the French Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (CCFC) is no stranger to the Kingdom’s economic landscape.
Offering a platform for professional exchange, office space and services for companies since 2000, the institution now has more than 140 members and saw
demand for its services triple last year compared to 2011. General manager Daniel Zarba talked to the Post’s Sarah Thust about France’s future role in Cambodia’s economy.
How would you describe the economic relations between France and Cambodia?
The French ambassador recently told me an anecdote. He asked for an appointment with Prime Minister Hun Sen and said he received a response within 24 hours. I think this shows how tight the relations between France and Cambodia are. The Kingdom never had animosity against France. This year is the 60th anniversary of the independence of Cambodia and the 150th anniversary of the French presence in Cambodia. However, apart from historical relations, Cambodia’s big [partners] remain Korea, Japan and China.
What role does France play as an exporter and investor in Cambodia?
Our government is currently discussing to improve its export relations with other countries. That makes us confident because France has to strengthen its exports in the world. Recently, the French government pleaded with all overseas delegations to help the private sector abroad to develop.
This represents a real opportunity for companies and institutions. In December, several contracts for investment were signed, worth $100 million. Among them was the investment from [water supply and water management, waste management, energy and transport services provider] Veolia that set up a commercial branch to improve public lighting in Phnom Penh.
Also, SAFEGE [French Limited Company for the Study of Management and Business, a consultancy in water and environmental engineering] plans the construction of a water purification station. Furthermore, many companies are interested in the garment and tourism sectors.
So far, there are only five French companies present in Cambodia.
If economic relations are so small, what is Cambodia’s potential in the future?
Cambodia is an excellent platform for doing business. Here are airports, the access to the sea, the Mekong River.
Entrepreneurs often say that it’s very easy to come to Cambodia – the administrative rigour is very, very light. Much more so than in other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
This was also the outcome of the reunion of the French Chambers of Commerce of the Asia-Pacific region. Doing business in Cambodia is easy in terms of expatriation and administration, and the country opens up very fast. Which sectors attract French companies?
Today, requests come mostly from enterprises that are working in garments. The tourism sector is very attractive as well for French businessmen, but this sector doesn’t request much assistance from us.
In the future we want to strengthen the following main sectors in Cambodia: agriculture, industry, energy and exports.
What are the main tasks of the CCFC?
Our aim is to help enterprises and expatriates who work here to set up their contacts network, and we give them the opportunity to improve their relations with Cambodian and French public and private institutions.
We promote commercial exchanges and investments between France and Cambodia. Also, we facilitate relations between the different business associations, and support employees with, for example, our Career Forum.
We also defend the interests of our members in participating actively in the government’s working sector groups.
What are the CCFC’s plans for the next years?
We can see a rising interest in investing in Cambodia. The demand for our services has tripled in 2012 compared to the year before.
Last year, 17 per cent more French expatriates lived in Cambodia compared to 2011, which is surely due to the economic situation in Europe.
Also, we can say that a part of the Cambodian diaspora is returning to their country of origin.