Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) president Kith Meng has urged the business community in the Mekong region to take advantage of Cambodia’s abundant business and investment potential, as well as its multitude of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements.

Speaking at the ASEAN-Cambodia Business Summit on September 28 in Phnom Penh, Kith Meng said the Mekong region is home to more than 200 million people and has high potential for growth. The countries in the region share a similar culture, enjoy strong friendship and great cooperation amid advantages on resources and industrial structure.

“As the president of CCC, I am very pleased to work with every business community for a better business environment. I would like to share with businessmen from EU, ASEAN and Mekong countries that the Cambodian government is pro-business and always listens to the concerns raised by the private sector. In Cambodia, we have the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF), which is ranked number one in the world as an effective platform for consultative private sector development,” he said.

The annual forum on November 13 will be chaired by Prime Minister Hun Manet, he said, adding that decisions made at the forum are binding and equivalent to those approved during the Council of Ministers’ meeting. “Under the G-PSF mechanism, we have seen reforms and regulations change in favour of a better business and investment climate.”

In an interview with The Post on July 23, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Penn Sovicheat noted that the decline in Cambodia-ASEAN trade volume is a result of lower regional and global demand, mainly driven by the Russo-Ukrainian war.

“From our perspective, the protracted war is the main factor limiting people’s consumption. Any drop in global demand has an impact on our regional trade as well,” he said, affirming that processed and unprocessed agricultural products, foodstuff and garments account for the bulk of Cambodia’s trade with ASEAN.

The volume of goods exchanged between Cambodia and the nine ASEAN states in the first half of 2023 reached $7.1 billion, down 17.2 per cent year-on-year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia.

The Southeast Asian bloc accounted for 30.1 per cent of the Kingdom’s $23.7 billion in international trade for the six-month period. In comparison, the figures were nearly 31.7 per cent and $27.2 billion in the first half of 2022.

The data indicates that Cambodia’s exports to and imports from the nine countries during the period came in at $2.5 billion and $4.7 billion, respectively, up 36 per cent and down 31 per cent year-on-year, narrowing the Kingdom’s trade deficit with the region by 56 per cent on an annual basis to $2.2 billion.

Meanwhile, 74 private investment projects were approved by the government in the second quarter of 2023, reflecting an increase of 45.1 per cent compared to the same period in 2022, with total capital investment up 63.3 per cent to $760.2 million, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The increase is a result of higher investment in animal husbandry, food as well as cassava and banana processing, island development, tourism centres and special economic zone projects.