VIETNAM Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung yesterday urged Vietnamese investors to look to Cambodia for increasing opportunities, as the two nations signed nine Memorandums of Understanding worth nearly US$900 million.
Although Vietnamese investments in Cambodia currently total more than $2 billion – excluding yesterday’s MoUs – Nguyen Tan Dung said: “It is still not enough to harness the huge potential that Cambodia has.”
“So I would like to encourage more Vietnamese investors to consider ventures in Cambodia, and I urge Vietnamese investors already here to strengthen and expand their capital investments to build closer economic cooperation...” he said at the 2nd Cambodia-Vietnam Conference on Investment Promotion held at Phnom Penh’s Peace Palace yesterday.
The largest MoU signed yesterday was for a hydroelectric plant on the Lower Sesan River, which has been pegged at $700 million by Royal Group, a partner in the joint venture, though a number of other deals were signed.
MoUs were also inked for a $32-million iron ore project by Hoang Anh-Ratanakiri, part of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group conglomerate, a $20-million cassava plantation by Cam-Viet Rural Development Ltd in Ratanakkiri province, and $75-million investment by Star Premier International for sugarcane farming in Kampong Speu province.
Agreements for investments in rubber plantations and a carbon credit project by Indochina Green JSC Company were also signed yesterday, though dollar figures were not announced at the conference.
Nguyen Tan Dung said the latest investments join significant Vietnamese projects ongoing in Cambodia, in areas such as telecommunications, banking and finance, mineral resources, and rubber plantations.
Prime Minister Hun Sen pointed to Cambodia’s open business environment and investment laws as important in attracting outside investment – with agriculture in particular offering opportunity.
“Cambodia has abundant potential in the agriculture sector, and with preferential law and economic incentives, it is a good opportunity for investors to grow rice, corn, cassava, bean, rubber and agro-industry, as well as in food-processing plants.”
“Beside the agriculture sector, we have some others sectors with strong potential. Infrastructure, industry exports, oil and gas, mining and tourism are waiting for investment from foreign investors, including those from Vietnam,” he said.
University of Cambodia professor of business and economics Chheng Kimlong said yesterday’s agreements were a positive sign for bilateral trade between the countries, which has been increasing year to year.
“The deal shows the very strong trade relationship between Vietnam and Cambodia, which has been building up for a long time,” he said, adding that Vietnam investors have been able to take market share in the agriculture and agri-business sectors.
Peter Brimble, Senior Country Economist for the Asian Development Bank, said that while he hadn’t reviewed the MoUs, the Vietnamese government was serious about promoting investment in the Kingdom.
“There’s no question that Vietnam is going to play a bigger role in Cambodia,” he said.
Trade between Cambodia and Vietnam increased by nearly 50 percent in the first quarter of the year compared the same period last year, according Vietnam Trade Office figures released last week. ADDITIONAL REPORTING TOM BRENNAN