H.E. Dr. Sok Siphana has spoken of Cambodia’s successful hosting of the 41st ASEAN Summit – detailing the ongoing focus on digitalization, strong investment opportunities from regional neighbors and Cambodia rebranding its international image during a keynote speech hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham).
Founding Partner at the law and consulting firm SokSiphana&associates, and Senior Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia Dr. Siphana said the 2022 ASEAN Chair had presented Cambodia as youthful and dynamic while also being a stable and competent regional player.
According to Dr. Sok, Cambodia wanted the 2022 ASEAN Summit to drive the ASEAN Green Deal that was proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting as a flagship climate change and post-pandemic recovery initiative over the next five years.
He added that Cambodia had the opportunity to host its flagship event, the 2nd ASEAN Global Dialogue, which turned out to be a very interactive exchanges between ASEAN Leaders and heads of international financial and UN institutions.
Focus on digital transformation
According to Dr. Sok a key takeaway from the summit was the focus by world leaders to ensure their nation’s workforce was being prepared for the digital transformation or fourth industrial revolution currently underway.
“One thing that was made very clear during the summit was that digitalization is the future for the world and the ASEAN region. The talk from every world leader was the need to build the capacity of their workforce as well as reskilling those employed in sunset industries,” he said.
In addition, at the margins of the summits, an ASEAN Public-Private Sector dialogue on economic recovery was held with the private sector in the ASEAN region was also moderated by Dr. Sok who emphasized the importance of digital inclusion for all customers and business entities.
“Creating new digital citizens is seen as fundamental to the digital economy and economic growth. These digital citizens must have the skills and knowledge to understand data and the latest technologies, and they need to be confident with digital payments, which enable online shopping, online studying and digital business operations,” he said.
Strong investment opportunities from regional neighbors
The recent ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was also a key talking point during the summit and marks the world’s largest trading pact consisting of 15 member nations and accounting for approximately 30% of global GDP.
“While this is a very large trading pact the practical negotiations to finding the right compromise have proved to be very difficult, particularly on the rules of origin. Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed the hope that Cambodia would be selected to host the RCEP secretariat,” Dr. Sok said.
He added, due to the ongoing conflict in Myanmar there were very strong investment redirection opportunities to Cambodia, especially from Japan which has previously bet on Myanmar heavily before the military coup.
“Japan was investing heavily into Myanmar due to their strong economic fundamentals such as large population, geographic location and fertile land however the ongoing conflict is pushing more Japanese investment to countries in the Mekong Sub-region with Cambodia being one of them,” Dr. Sok said.
“In addition, there are also strong trade opportunities between the European Union and Cambodia and the potential for adding more to the existing FTAs potentially with Vietnam and others to come,” he added.
Cambodia rebranding its international image
Dr. Sok Siphana highlighted the summit was also an opportunity to present the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Kingdom with a youthful and dynamic outlook since its last Chairmanship in 2012.
“We have completely rebranded Cambodia’s image over the last 10 to 20 years. We made a special point for many of the world leaders to meet our up-and-coming ministry officials to showcase this,” he said.
According to Dr. Sok this gradual shift is a good indication that the future of Cambodia is moving towards a younger, more capable, and western trained governance system. This reflected in the quality of the summit where all the heavy lifting was done by national expertise without the help of foreign technical assistance, he said.
“Cambodia has come a long way in 10 – 20 years recording an average economic growth rate of 7% as well as many high rises have now been constructed in the capital and other essential infrastructure has been developed. We hope that in the next 10 to 20 years Cambodia can play a larger role within ASEAN and even globally,” he added.