Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 1 invited Japanese investors to take advantage of the planned 2023 upgrade of Cambodia-Japan relations from a strategic to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” (CSP).

The premier was speaking at a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of Minebea’s operations in the Kingdom, where he lauded the Japanese multinational manufacturer as a model investor.

A CSP is generally a broad, detailed, dynamic, long-term, highly result-oriented agreement between signatories that affirms a high degree of maturity in relations as well as mutual trust and commitment. In 2010, Cambodia and China entered into such a partnership and trade between the two countries has increased ever since, as has mutual support for international politics.

The commitment to step up ties between the two countries was made during a bilateral meeting between Hun Sen and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the dual ASEAN summits on November 12.

Hun Sen underlined that the upgrade coincides with the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations – established on January 9, 1953 – and that although Cambodia has received plenty of financial assistance from Tokyo, the Kingdom requires additional Japanese investment.

“We all know that we’ve received a lot of financial aid from Japan, but what we need more is Japanese direct investment, as we’re cognisant of the fact that Japan not only helps Cambodia, but also other countries.

“The key issue here is to obtain more Japanese investment and opening our markets even wider.

“I am happy to see two-way Cambodia-Japan trade increasing thanks to Japanese investment [in production] here for export back to their home country, so we have to keep the ball rolling to improve our relations,” he said.

Hun Sen said he has been “taking care” of the company for 11 years, and providing “full support” for their operations.

“I’m very proud to have a hand in the company, and other players, to ensure the success of these investments,” he said.

At the ceremony, Minebea (Cambodia) Co Ltd CEO Yoshihisa Kainuma credited the premier’s “full support” for his company’s successes, saying that its initial investment of just $23 million has since ballooned to more than $600 million.

“With our original investment plan, which was our first QIP [quality investment project], we planned to invest $23 million in five years, but we’ve already sunk in more than a $100 million.

“At our fifth anniversary, I said that the once the third plant was in full operation, our investment plans were expected to be at over $250 million, and they now stand at $614 million, including fixed assets and other expansion costs.

“It is a source of pride for us to follow the government’s guidelines in building up human resources – our young Cambodian employees are growing with us and have become highly skilled professionals after working with our company,” he said.

Hun Sen also revealed that Minebea is planning a new plant in Pursat province.

The bilateral merchandise trade between Cambodia and Japan stood at $1.653 billion in the first 10 months of 2022, up 14.06 per cent from the same time last year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

In the January-October period, Cambodian exports to Japan amounted to $988.389 million, up 7.38 per cent year-on-year, and imports $664.746 million, up 25.68 per cent. The Kingdom’s trade surplus with the East Asian nation for the 10-month period narrowed by 17.34 per cent on a yearly basis to $323.644 million.

According to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), Japan is the fifth biggest investor in Cambodia, after China, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. Japanese investors in the Kingdom largely operate in industry, banking, hotels and tourism, construction and real estate, and especially supermarkets and retail, restaurants and services.