Cambodia Investment Review

Australian Government & Council for the Development of Cambodia Launch Flagship ‘Handbook On Investing In Cambodia’

Australian Government & Council for the Development of Cambodia Launch Flagship ‘Handbook On Investing In Cambodia’

Harrison White

In a significant move to boost economic engagement between Australia and Cambodia, the Australian Government and the Council for the Development of Cambodia have launched ‘Handbook on Investing in Cambodia’ – designed to demystify regulations, uncover opportunities, and provide leading testimonials from Australian business owners and investors in Cambodia. The handbook was unveiled amid plans to deepen economic ties and foster trade and investment with Cambodia under Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.

Mr. Sven Callebaut, Team Leader.

The investment guide was compiled by Mr. Sven Callebaut, Team Leader and Ms. Ratana Phurik, investment specialist with the support of Ms. Lyze Ikopo Bentoto, a legal and regulatory consultant and with the insights and expertise of the CDC team.  The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provided overall guidance, along with contributions from numerous Australian investors.

Strength of the Cambodian-Australian 70 year diplomatic relationship

In a joint statement, H.E. Justin Whyatt, Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, and H.E. Sok Chenda Sophea, Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, celebrated the launch of the handbook. They emphasized the strength of the Cambodian-Australian diplomatic relationship, which has been resilient for over seven decades.

Read more: Australia & Cambodia’s Private Sector Seek Closer Ties with Liaison Office in Melbourne

The ambassador and the minister see the handbook as a tangible product of the collective efforts to build capacities and improve bilateral relationships between Australia and Cambodia, “Our resilient relationship, built on shared human connections, business partnerships, and governmental cooperation, stands as a testament to our enduring partnership.”

H.E. Sok Chenda Sophea, Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

The handbook will act as a practical guide for Australian and other foreign investors, clarifying investment rules in Cambodia, such as the 2021 Law on Investment. They also underscored Cambodia’s allure as an investment destination, highlighting its strategic geographical position, favorable investment climate, rich natural resources, competitive labor market, and escalating infrastructure development, among other attributes.

Ambassador Whyatt and H.E. Sok Chenda invited investors to take advantage of the mutual trade agreements between Australia, Cambodia, and other Indo-Pacific nations, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that became operational in January 2022.

The anticipated upgrade of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Agreement, scheduled for official signing in 2023, along with Australia’s forthcoming Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, are expected to further boost trade and investment opportunities.

Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 – a roadmap to bolster two-way trade in the region

Mr. Nicholas Moore, Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia, who was visiting Cambodia for the first time attended the handbook launch as a guest of honor and emphasized the crucial role of Australia’s efforts in Cambodia under the Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040. In his role as Special Envoy, Moore will lead the initiative that maps current and emerging opportunities and provides a roadmap to bolster two-way trade in the region.

Mr. Nicholas Moore, Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia.

He noted the potential of the region, stating, “Southeast Asia is home to a growing, youthful and dynamic cohort of markets. Australia’s two-way trade with the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is greater than that with Japan or the United States, passing $150 billion in financial year 2021-22.”

Mr. Moore also noted that while each market in the Southeast Asia region has its unique complexities, Australia’s existing free trade agreements with individual economies, such as Indonesia and Singapore, and an upgraded ASEAN-wide FTA, provide significant opportunities for Australian businesses.

Panel Discussion: Strategies to promote and utilize the new investor handbook

During the panel discussion, trade & investment experts highlighted the plans and strategies for Cambodia’s attraction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), revolving around the new Law on Investment. The panel was moderated by Sven Callebaut, who also probed the panel about their strategies to promote and utilize the new investor handbook.

H.E. Nut Unvoanra, Deputy Secretary General, Cambodian Investment Board, CDC, addressed the concerns about the 2021 Law on Investment of the Kingdom of Cambodia (LOI). He emphasized the good feedback they’ve received since its launch, and how they have been patiently waiting for the LOI implementation sub-decree for investors to fully understand and utilize it.

Panel discussion on ‘Handbook On Investing In Cambodia’ at Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh on July 10, 2023.

H.E. Nut Unvoanra explained that the CDC has been working on the investor handbook since the previous year, engaging relevant ministry representatives and numerous investors during the process. “We want this handbook to expand outside of just the local Australian community and will be uploaded on our website and Facebook. It will also be available in various embassies and trade officers around the world,” he explained. The CDC is also looking to follow up with potential webinars, business and investment forums and other engagement ideas.

The discussion progressed with Mr. Callebaut asking about AustTrade’s plans for utilizing the handbook and highlighting ratified free trade agreements and pacts to increase trade and investment into Cambodia. Ms. Rebecca Ball, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Austrade – Vietnam & Cambodia, noted the significance of the investment booklet as a gateway for potential investors to learn more about Cambodia and its unique business environment.

Ms. Ball stressed the necessity for proper distribution of the document and not merely “preaching to the converted.” Regarding the trade pacts, she added, “They are only as good as their implementation, so it’s critical to ensure we have the framework and infrastructure to fully exploit these agreements to their full potential.”

Understanding Australian strengths and expertise & Cambodian needs and demands

Discussing the evolution of Australian investment in Cambodia, Mr. Kenneth Tang, President of Auscham Cambodia and CEO, Worldbridge Sport Village, described the transition from large Australian company investors in the early 2000s to smaller, more diversified, and independent investors today.

Read more: Australia hosts roundtable to increase investment inflow to Cambodia

Mr. Tang noted the importance of understanding where Australia’s strengths lie and how it can be matched to Cambodian demands and needs. “Vocational and tertiary education, improving digital capabilities within agriculture, digital transformation and clean energy are vital industries to focus on,” he said.

‘Handbook On Investing In Cambodia’ at Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh on July 10, 2023.

Mr. Callebaut then turned the focus on the Cambodia Australia Partnership for Resilient Economic Development (CAPRED). Ms. Ponleu Cheu, Trade, Investment, and Agri-food Innovation Lead at CAPRED, described the initiative as Australia’s flagship economic development program in Cambodia, aimed at building resilient, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth.

CAPRED works to increase value addition in agriculture and agro-processing such as support to develop agri-food industrial park, work with government to leverage Free Trade Agreement and support local SMEs for investment readiness and export promotion as well as supporting Cambodia to develop renewable energy and clean water infrastructure services. Gender equality, disability, and social inclusion as well as climate resilience are integrated into all CAPRED’s activities. 

Appreciation to over 30 government officials and 20 Australian investors

In his closing remarks, H.E. Nut Unvoanra, Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodian Investment Board, expressed deep gratitude to the Australian Government for her on-going support and partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia. Designing the Handbook on Investing in Cambodia is another meaningful outcome from this partnership through a collaboration between the CDC and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Mekong Foreign Investment and Critical Infrastructure Initiative.

‘Handbook On Investing In Cambodia’ at Rosewood Hotel Phnom Penh on July 10, 2023.

The Deputy Secretary General also attributed the accomplishment of the handbook to the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Australian investors featured in the handbook, consultants, the management and officials of the CDC and other relevant ministries and institutions.

The successful launch of this booklet and the endorsement from key government officials not only demonstrate the government’s commitment to improving the country’s investment climate but also serve as an important step towards actualizing Cambodia’s economic goals.

Scan QR to download the handbook.

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