Outgoing British Ambassador to Cambodia H.E. Tina Redshaw spoke with CIR Leader Talks on promoting British businesses, strengthening trade ties, as well as advocating for women’s participation and the green economy in Cambodia.
Redshaw took over the role in 2018 and has extensive experience in Asia, having served twice in the British Embassy in Beijing (2000 to 2003 and 2007 to 2010), was Ambassador to Timor-Leste from 2003-2007, and the British Consul-General in Chongqing, South West China.
Responsible for assisting British business in Cambodia the embassy is connected with the UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) and the locally run British Chamber of Commerce.
Redshaw said that while the British business in Cambodia was relatively small many well-known brands have entered the market predominately in the sectors of tax advisory, education, and manufacturing.
“British business showcases global expertise and quality. I have been pleased to also see the commitment from British businesses to invest in not just employing, but also developing the local Cambodian workforce,” Redshaw said.
Founded in 1995 as the British Business Association of Cambodia, the British Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia (BritCham) strives to be the leading forum for businesspeople with an interest in Cambodia and the UK.
Redshaw explained that BritCham was playing important role in supporting British businesses to have a voice with key decision makers and attract more British businesses to invest in Cambodia.
Preferential market access
Cambodia’s manufacturing and agricultural exports benefit from preferential market access under Britain’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) awarded to Cambodia and introduced in 2020 after the UK and European Union split.
The GSP will be transitioned in 2023 to the Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) as the UK encourages more imports of goods from Least Developed Countries such as Cambodia.
Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the UK reached more than $785 million in 2021, down around 10% year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Commerce exports to the UK were the overwhelming majority valued at more than $731 million.
“The UK has partnered with Cambodia on trade and investment for decades and this work continues. Cambodia has duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market,” she said.
To read more about the UK’s GSP deal with Cambodia click here.
The UK has decided not to follow the European Union’s 2020 to partially suspend the preferential treatment enjoyed by Cambodia under “Everything But Arms” due to the “serious and systematic concerns related to human rights ascertained in the country”.
“Upon leaving the EU, we took the decision not to suspend preferential trade, but instead requested that we would have a human rights dialogue, in which we could discuss our concerns on human rights issues,” she said.
Redshaw also clarified that country was not negotiating a Free Trade Agreement but will look once again at the likely impact of the trade relationship once Cambodia fully graduates to Upper Middle Income Status.
Reflecting on the overall bilateral trade relationship, Redshaw said, “COVID-19 hit the global economy hard, including here in Cambodia – but UK trade with Cambodia is rebounding”.
“We of course have traditional sectors like garments, shoes, bicycles, and some agricultural products; but we are seeing a significant expansion of education trade,” she added.
With this expanding education sector more UK schools are now seeking to open campuses in Cambodia and more Cambodian students are seeing the UK as a destination for their studies.
“I hope this drive for more cross-educational opportunities continues. I see more scope in the education sector with UK EdTech seeking to do more in the region,” Redshaw said.
Developing Cambodia’s green economy
One of the embassy’s flagship initiatives has been promoting the transition to a green economy with the British Embassy the first and only diplomatic mission in Cambodia to convert the embassy’s official vehicles into electric vehicles.
“Cambodia is beginning to make significant strides towards greening its economy. We firmly believe that climate change is the most important issue facing the next generation and one part of this is moving away from fossil fuels,” she said.
“We’ve seen the Minister of Transport & Public Works really champion the growth in EVs – and although a move to large-scale sales of EVs won’t happen overnight infrastructure will need to be developed such as charging stations on petrol station forecourts,” she added.
Redshaw felt overall optimistic that Cambodia would embrace electrification of the transport sector adding there were many opportunities for investment through green finance and that the UK had supported the National Bank of Cambodia to assist in the transition to a greener economy.
To read more about UK Embassy’s and EV cars click here.
“We are clear that greening the economy is an opportunity for Cambodia to attract investment and be a player in these new industries. Greening the economy across all sectors needs to be the central priority for all ministries if Cambodia is to reach their net zero target by 2050,” she said.
Reflecting on her three years as ambassador Redshaw highlighter her work supporting the Sister of Code project – the first female coding club in Cambodia to share knowledge and skills and grow together, as one of her most exciting.
In addition, she also highlighted support of the gender-focused and culturally tailored business incubator and accelerator programs SHE Investments and STEM Sisters for empowering women of Colour in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
“Advocating for more women to participate in Cambodia’s economy and politics has been a key agenda for myself and the embassy. I hope my time has furthered this cause and hope the momentum will continue for the country,” she said.