The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (AusCham) was established to support small and medium-sized enterprises gain a foothold and succeed in Cambodia. Originally dating back to the mid nineties under the moniker of ABAC (The Australian Business Association of Cambodia), AusCham provides a social setting to establish good relationships between the two countries. With 90 members associated with AusCham, the organization operates alongside Australian businesses, the Australian Embassy and the Cambodian Government. The Vice President of AusCham, Stephen Higgins, spoke with the Phnom Penh Post about the value of the organization.
“We have been able to create a deep relationship with the business community here. Not only do we support Australian businesses operating in Cambodia, but we also help communicate with investors wanting to do business in Australia,” said Higgins. “We strike a balance between the social and business environment by hosting networking events and training courses.” Recently, AusCham and the Australian embassy conducted a seven hour workshop on anticorruption practices. Additionally, AusCham has brought in ANZ’s CEO Michael Smith to give lectures to its members.
“With the help of the embassy and businesses, we share useful advice with our members about Cambodia’s economy. Cambodia is a very unique market, and in many ways a lot easier than other countries to do business,” said Higgins while comparing the Kingdom to Thailand and Vietnam.
However, while Cambodia remains a lucrative place to conduct business and launch enterprising ventures, it also has it challenges. And Higgins was quick to point out that investors need to be aware of the market they are entering into.
“People look at the growth of the market (in Cambodia) and think it is an easy place to succeed, and there are a lot of companies that have, but it is important that people gain local insights and local advice,” he said. He went on to say that a lot of Australian investors are eager to enter into Cambodia, but once they are confronted with bureaucratic malaise, they often pulled out.
Those that pullout often have inadequate knowledge of the business climate in Cambodia. But Higgins remains firm that as Cambodia continues to modernize their regulatory practices, Australian investment will continue especially in the mining and the agribusiness sector.
Higgins predicts, as Cambodia’s middle class grows and wealth is accumulated, the core industries in Cambodia will change.
“In the future we will see a shift away from garment industry as more high tech industries enter into the market. As investors look to diversify their supply chains, we will likely see companies invest in electronics and electric motors. This will allow for the workers to be better paid,” he said, adding that it is important for companies to empower and train their workforce.