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SMEs look to regional buyers

SMEs look to regional buyers

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Commercial and residential buildings seen from a window at the Cambodian Securities Exchange, which opened last month. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia's ASEAN Economic Minister yesterday urged small and medium-size enterprises to focus on countries in Southeast Asia, rather than Europe and the United States, for export destinations.

Cham Prasidh, also the minister of commerce, said yesterday that regional markets have traditionally held a second place to those in the West.

The so-called ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a tariff and regulation bloc which member states hope to form by 2015, should bring regional trade into the forefront, he said.

“We are encouraging our SMEs and local producers to look the ASEAN market because standards will not be restrictive here, he said. “If we can sell into the United States and Europe, it should be easy for us to sell to countries in the region.”

The quality of Cambodian products was lower than those produced in neighbouring countries, but the Kingdom was working to improve exports, Te Taing Por, president of the Federation of Associations for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia (FASMEC), said yesterday.

There are some processed-food exports shipped to ASEAN members already, he said.

FASMEC plans to organise a “Cambodian-made” product fair in 2013, which would give exporters a chance to showcase local goods to regional importers, Te Taing Por said.

“By doing that, we can evaluate our products and make more improvement to compete. We want to improve the standard of quality so we can access more export markets,” he said.

Mainland Southeast Asian counties, including Cambodia, have scored lower on a survey that rated member’s readiness to join the economic community, said Hank Lim, chairperson at Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, the orgaisation that conducted the survey.

“Most ASEAN countries, including [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam] have done well in producing goods but are lagging in the service and investment sector, and labour mobility,” he said.

Partnership with the government would be needed.

“We have to work together with the government on promoting our exports – that would be a good start,” he said, adding that there were some 530,000 SMEs in the country.

A government survey earlier this year showed that a majority of the country’s businesses were operated by only one or two people.

Experts have cast doubt on Cambodia’s and other mainland ASEAN states’ ability to standardise trade regulations and banking sectors before the 2015 deadline, the Post has reported.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Kunmakara at [email protected]

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