Cambodia is stepping up discussions with the Japanese on the possibility of investing in the Kingdom’s special economic zones (SEZ). During a recent trip to Japan, Prime Minister Hun Manet proposed that Japanese investors examine the possibility of investing in Cambodia-Japan SEZs.

Sun Chanthol, deputy prime minister and first vice-chair of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), led a December 25 inter-ministerial meeting with a delegation from Japan led by Japanese ambassador Atsushi Ueno on logistics, transport infrastructure and ports. 

The participants discussed preparations to establish the Cambodia-Japan SEZs, aiming to encourage Japanese investors to invest in the Kingdom.

Global Real Estate Association president Sam Soknoeun, who is studying the possibility of partnering with Japanese investors on the Cambodia-Japan SEZ project, told The Post on December 26 that he recently met with the leaders of several Japanese companies that wish to invest in the establishment of several SEZs in Cambodia. They explored the possibility of signing investment agreements that would attract more Japanese – and other foreign – investors to open factories in Cambodia.

He said the SEZs would certainly help to attract more Japanese investors, noting that the large number of Chinese-owned SEZs have attracted increasing Chinese investment.

According to Soknoeun, he is currently studying possible locations, especially near the “Funan Techo Canal” project and near national roads 3 and 4, which are convenient areas for transporting goods to and from international markets.

“In addition to studying possible locations, I am conducting an in-depth study with Japanese investors to find companies that have the potential to mobilise other Japanese companies to open factories and manufacturing enterprises in the Cambodia-Japan SEZs in the future,” he said.

“If well-known Japanese companies open factories in Cambodia, it will not only improve the quality of Cambodian products but also improve our ability to export Cambodian goods to international markets,” he added.

Manet visited Japan for the ASEAN-Japan commemorative summit and also attended the December 19 Cambodia Investment Forum 2023, held to promote and attract more Japanese investors to Cambodia.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng said the Cambodia Investment Forum in Japan had attracted many Japanese investors. 

Heng said a number of Japanese companies, including Minebea (Cambodia), Toyota and Aeon Mall – as well as those operating in the Royal Group Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone – have seen steady growth. He added that the establishment of more SEZs is a good sign, and will attract investors to invest directly in Cambodia.

“I think that following the prime minister’s visit, from 2024 onwards, more Japanese will invest directly in Cambodia, and there are many incentives to invest here,” he added.

According to the CDC, from 2006 to the end of the first half of 2023, there were 24 SEZs in operation in the Kingdom, with an investment of approximately $8.1 billion. Most of them are in the garment, footwear, travel goods, auto parts, electronics, car tyre, automotive parts and bicycle assembly industries. Among the 24 SEZs, there are up to 655 factories and companies registered.