Foreign business and political leaders cautioned last week that Cambodia could have difficulty attracting investors if it does not crack down on counterfeit goods, while one government official said authorities did not have the resources to properly regulate imports.
At an event hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce (Eurocham), several speakers, including EU Ambassador George Edgar, extolled the benefits of protecting intellectual property and called widespread counterfeiting a “worrying phenomenon”.
“Companies have worked hard to produce the intellectual property incorporated in their products, and they deserve to reap the benefits of their labour,” Edgar said.
Jean-Gaetan Guillemaud, vice chairman of the Eurocham Healthcare Committee, noted the importance of stopping counterfeit pharmaceuticals, which have negative economic effects and cause more than a million deaths globally each year.
“Health care in Cambodia is an $800 million industry, and 15 to 20 percent of pharmaceuticals are estimated to be counterfeits in many markets,” he said.
Soy Monica, senior external affairs manager for consumer goods giant Unilever (Cambodia), said that more than 50 percent of the company’s products were affected by counterfeiting, with a loss of $4 million to $5 million in Cambodia alone.
“This is a serious concern,” she said, noting that the prevalence of counterfeiting in Cambodia would likely affect other companies’ decision to invest in the Kingdom.
“We [at Unilever] have hosted some workshops [to explain to people how to spot counterfeits], but we really should do more checks at the border,” she said. “It’s too hard for many consumers to determine just from looking at the packaging.”
But Em Wutthy, the pharmaceuticals expert for the Ministry of Interior’s Cambodian Counter Counterfeit Committee (CCCC), said the government simply wasn’t able to inspect all goods being imported.
“Most of the customs [officials] don’t have enough staff to check the border checkpoints,” he said, adding that Cambodia could not be sure that its goods were inspected at the border.
“Customs should work on these border checkpoints … [and] it is important companies come to [the CCCC] and try to protect their own brand.”