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Trade groups home in on Cambodian opportunities

Trade groups home in on Cambodian opportunities

Two major trade and invest ment missions from neigh boring Southeast Asia visited

Cambodia in the last two weeks, underscoring the widespread interest businesses in

the region have in the potential of the Cambodian economy.

The delegation of 70 business representatives from Malaysia, which stopped in Phnom

Penh on Dec. 5-6, was the largest trade delegation to visit Cambodia. Another from

Singapore with 47 participants spent five days the capital from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

Chua Jui Meng, Malaysia's deputy minister of international trade and industry, told

the Post before his departure that the delegation had received "a very clear

expression of welcome by the Cambodian government to invest in Cambodia."

"We have warm feelings about the visit," said Chua. "We speak on the

same wavelength."

Chua noted that "many deals had been struck"as a result of the mission"

and he expected more would be made in the near future.

He cited an agreement by Dany Press of Kuala Lumpur to set up a printing house in

Phnom Penh as one example of a new signed contract.

According to Chua, Guthrie Industries, one of Malyasia's largest manufacturers of

rubber processing machines was also showing "strong intentions" of becoming

involved in the rehabilitation or establishment of rubber estates.

Malaysians in the delegation represented a wide spectrum of business interests including

agro-industries, rubber production, banking, small-scale manufacturing, real estate,

timber, and engineering.

Chua said that as of four months ago, total investment in Cambodia by Malaysian companies

was estimated at US$40 million, but that during his visit new existing ventures had

come to light.

While noting that he felt the country "was going in the right direction",

Chua said foreign investors "are keenly awaiting the new investment code"

expected in January.

"The code will be critical for all investors and especially so for the Cambodian

economy," said Chua.

"We expressed our feelings on the code," added Chua. "But whatever

they do, it must come with a bang, it mustn't be half-hearted."

Chua said the hard reality in today's economic environment was that many countries

were liberalizing their economies, were spending large amounts to encourge foreign

direct investment and that, overall, the environment was "very competitive."

"If Cambodia comes up with half-hearted measures they will get a half-hearted

response," said Chua.

By way of example Chua cited the Malaysian experience in 1985/86 when the country

was in recession. To deal with the problem the government set up a "one-stop"

agency for foreign investors, introduced substantial tax holidays and offered land

at low cost to potential foreign investors.

According to Chua, the government's liberalized investment package played a major

role in growth of between six and eight percent over the last six years with inflation

running at less that four percent per annum.

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