A senior investment official on April 3 called on Indonesian players to take advantage of the ever-growing pool of potentially lucrative opportunities in Cambodia, underpinned by the new Law on Investment adopted in 2021, as the tourism ministry reported a 108.66 per cent jump in business visitors from the largest ASEAN economy last year versus the 2019 figure.

Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea made the plea during a meeting at the CDC office in Phnom Penh with Arsjad Rasjid, chairman of both Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) and ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) 2023.

The meeting with the KADIN delegation was held to discuss work related to Indonesia’s 2023 chairmanship of the ASEAN-BAC – the Southeast Asian bloc’s apex private sector body – as well as to improve bilateral cooperation between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the CDC – the government’s highest decision-making body for large-scale investments.

Chenda Sophea commended KADIN for taking the time to visit other ASEAN countries, and in particular Cambodia to understand the successes of its chairmanship of the ASEAN-BAC in 2022, the statement said.

He called on KADIN to work with the relevant ministries, institutions and private sector actors to address challenges and promote sustainable economic growth, common prosperity and social progress in ways that advance the interests and aspirations of ASEAN nations as a whole.

The ASEAN framework has been a key driving force for dialogue and cooperation among nations and other partners, he said, emphasising that adherence to a spirit of unity could contribute to the response and prevention to a host of challenges as well as the realisation of many common achievements.

This unity could serve the objectives of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), such as turning the bloc into a single market and important production base for the global supply chain, he added.

Regarding bilateral cooperation, Chenda Sophea expressed support for strengthening and expanding arrangements in the digital, sustainable development, healthcare, food security, and trade and investment facilitation.

Cambodia welcomes and encourages Indonesians to enter the local market and seize opportunities arising from the targeted policies and content in the new Law on Investment that was promulgated on October 15, 2021, he said.

Arsjad was keen to encourage Indonesian businesspeople to bet on Cambodia – either through direct investments, joint ventures with local enterprises, or public-private partnerships – to push the diversification agenda forward, and called for collaboration among stakeholders on the ASEAN-BAC to ensure the best results, the statement said.

Between its August 5, 1994 inception and March 2023, the CDC has received a total of 22 investment proposals from Indonesian entities worth about $69 million, in areas such as industry, agriculture and services.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, highlighted the benefits of drawing in investors from one ASEAN country to another, telling The Post on April 4 that stepping up political and economic cooperation with Indonesia – a member of the Group of 20 largest economies, or G20 – would be a boon for the Kingdom.

“Cambodia’s investment law is very favourable, so it offers opportunities for Indonesian investors to open businesses or factories here for production or export to Indonesia and other markets around the world,” he said.

The merchandise trade volume between Cambodia and Indonesia totalled $948.533 million in 2022, soaring by 48.27 per cent from a year earlier, with Cambodian imports accounting for a 96.12 per cent share, edging up by 1.08 percentage points on a yearly basis, according to provisional Customs (GDCE) data.

In 2022, Cambodian goods exports to and imports from Indonesia amounted to $36.839 million and $911.694 million, respectively, up 15.9 per cent and 49.96 per cent year-on-year, expanding the Kingdom’s trade deficit with the archipelago nation by 51.84 per cent to $874.854 million, from $576.167 million in 2021.

The Ministry of Tourism registered an all-time record of 75,653 Indonesian visitors to Cambodia last year, of which most had their purpose of visit marked as “business”, at 55,107, followed by “holiday” (20,328) and “others” (218) – compared to second-place 2019’s 66,804 (26,410 business; 38,530 holiday; 1,864 others).

Indonesians accounted for 3.32 per cent of all foreign visitors to the Kingdom last year, versus the 1.01 per cent recorded in 2019.

The increase in Indonesian business travellers could be attributed to the establishment of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (IndoCham) on September 23, 2021, along with a number of major business-related events that have opened doors for partnerships between public and private organisations of both countries.

One such event is the February 22, 2022 Indonesia-Cambodia Investment Dialogue, at which then-Indonesian ambassador Sudirman Haseng vowed that his embassy would work with IndoCham to promote trade between the two Southeast Asian countries and encourage investment to the Kingdom.