Promoting US-Cambodian economic ties

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US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia Patrick Murphy arrives in the Kingdom. Photo supplied

In my diplomatic work over many decades, I have always been struck by Cambodia’s rich culture and traditions, and the warmth of the Cambodian people.

Since arriving in September as US Ambassador, I’ve also witnessed the growing dynamism of the private sector.

Cambodia’s entrepreneurs, tech leaders and young innovators are well positioned to help the country achieve middle-income status.

These are the individuals who will grow companies, create jobs, and compete in an international market that values high standards and integrity.

To be successful, Cambodian business leaders will benefit from supportive government policies and access to the right investment, high-quality financing and open markets.

These are areas where the US offers world-class products, investment tools and market opportunities.

I will lead a top-drawer trade delegation from Cambodia to next week’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok.

This US-sponsored trade and investment event will provide participating countries and companies opportunities to build connections to key policy-makers and business executives from over 20 other Indo-Pacific nations, including a delegation of high-profile American CEOs led by US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.

Delegates to the Business Forum will learn about opportunities to partner with the US private sector in meeting growth and development needs in priority sectors identified by countries in the Indo-Pacific – energy, infrastructure and the digital economy.

New initiatives include the Build Act, passed by the US Congress, which more than doubled the amount of capital (from $29 billion to $60 billion) available to support private sector investment in countries like Cambodia.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the Indo-Pacific region needs $1.7 trillion in infrastructure spending per year to maintain current growth levels.

This won’t be achieved by state-backed financing, but by mobilising private sector resources.

Imagine the benefits to Cambodia from greater trade and investment – more reliable and less expensive energy; new infrastructure built to the highest safety and environmental standards at the lowest cost; and new public-private partnerships that unleash Cambodia’s burgeoning tech sector.

Cambodia has the potential to attract high-quality investment, but US companies need to see attractive opportunities in a market with clear rules and where they compete on a level playing field. Transparency, fairness, rule of law and anti-corruption practices are not only principles sought by the US private sector, they are the hallmarks of American investors.

US companies also bring with them high labour and environmental standards, world-class training programmes, and state-of-the-art technologies.

They’re reliable business partners who create jobs in local communities and support some of the most effective social responsibility programmes in the world.

Already in Cambodia, tens of thousands of local residents benefit from clean drinking water and medical services provided by two of the US’ most well-known brands – Coca-Cola and General Electric.

American economic and commercial engagement have advanced prosperity here in the region for over two centuries – and that engagement is increasing.

The Indo-Pacific region is collectively the US’ largest commerce partner, with nearly $1.8 trillion in total trade each year, and US private sector investment to the region has doubled in the past decade.

These figures reflect the region’s promise, as well as the opportunity in front of countries like Cambodia.

US commitment to the Indo-Pacific is more than just a one-day event.

Similarly, my commitment to strengthening US-Cambodia economic ties will go well beyond the Bangkok Forum.

I look forward to the next few years working with stakeholders here in the Kingdom to expand this important part of our relationship.

HE Patrick Murphy is the US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia.