Cambodia-Malaysia take economic ties to a higher level

Cambodia-Malaysia take economic ties to a higher level

Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and presided over by the Cambodian Premier yesterday, the eagerly-awaited Cambodia-Malaysia Business Forum 2024 (CMBF), has proven itself to be a historic event in the two Southeast Asian countries’ bilateral ties by bringing their businesspeople closer with insights and mutual understanding, thus expanding space for further economic cooperation and partnerships.

The Forum, jointly organised by the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and the Malaysia Business Chamber of Cambodia (MBCC), in collaboration with the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, took place on the occasion of the official visit of Prime Minister Hun Manet to Malaysia yesterday.

It aimed to fortify economic, trade, and investment relations between Cambodia and Malaysia, fostering a mutually beneficial environment for business growth and collaboration.

Among those who accompanied the Prime Minister were Sun Chanthol, Deputy Prime Minister and First Vice-President of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, and Deputy Prime Minister Sok Chenda Sophea, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Chea Serey, the Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, along with senior ministers, ministers, key government officials and business leaders from the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce.

While addressing representatives from 320 Malaysian and 80 Cambodian businesses, Mr Hun Manet outlined the Cambodian government’s vision and priorities concerning economic development and cooperation with Malaysia.

The Premier expressed optimism about the forum’s ability to foster a new era of success for bilateral trade and investments, particularly in industries such as rice, cashew nuts, automotive, electronics, and renewable energy.

“This momentous occasion marks a wider step into deepening our economic ties,” he said. “Let’s seize this moment to not only further explore more possibilities but also to make bold decisions that will fuel the economic growth of our nations.”

Prime Minister Hun Manet witnessing the exchange of MoU between Neak Oknha Kith Meng, (L) President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and Oknha Tan Khee Meng, President of the Malaysia Business Chamber of Cambodia (MBCC), during the Cambodia-Malaysia Business Forum 2024 yesterday. KT/Pann Rachana

In addition to a strong historical bond and heritage ties, Cambodia and Malaysia shared mutual respect and a vision for more prosperity in the region, Mr Hun Manet said.

“That can be seen through the dynamics and ever-growing connections between our nations and citizens. Also, Cambodia and Malaysia have a close-knit business community that holds both vision and expertise, longing for more beneficial cooperation and partnership,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tan Sri Dato’ Soh Thian Lai, President of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM), provided additional context on the Malaysian perspective towards enhancing bilateral economic ties.

“As a trading nation, Malaysia aims to promote a balanced and inclusive economy with all its trading and FDI partners. To this end, ASEAN remains a key trading partner for Malaysia, taking up 27.3% of Malaysia’s total trade in 2023 and trade with Cambodia alone amounted to RM3.024 billion ($635,027,601), which is the only ASEAN country that Malaysia has recorded an increase for exports last year,” he said.

“Year 2024 marks the 67th anniversary of the establishment of Malaysia-Cambodia diplomatic relations and this shows that the close cooperation and relations between the two countries not only withstood the test of time and changes in the regional and international landscape, but it has also been growing and thriving,” he added.

Soh also proposed for the Cambodian government to create the Cambodia-Malaysia Special Investment Zone to add more space for the two countries to see a rise in trade and economic cooperation and partnership. He recommended that Cambodia and Malaysia boost business partnerships in potential areas such as halal products and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). These proposals were welcomed by Mr Hun Manet, who described them as aligned with his government’s policy when it comes to its relations with Malaysia.

On the special occasion, Neak Oknha Kith Meng, President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and Chair of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council-Cambodia, led a sharing session that set the tone for constructive dialogue and partnership between the two ASEAN members.

“Our two nations have directed regional economics together, building on the foundation of our long-established relations. The result is a synergy that benefits both sides,” he said.

Echoing the message made by the Cambodian Premier, Meng called for more Malaysian investors to come to Cambodia and explore the business opportunities, where they can leverage an extensive network of preferential trade agreements, including Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), as well as the accessibility of the 2.5 billion-person ASEAN market.

“As we continue to open and diversify the Cambodian economy and expand our market, we actively seek Malaysian investors across key sectors, including agriculture, technology, energy, and the Halal Food sector,” he said.

“Malaysian businesses across many industries have found significant success in Cambodia. These achievements stand as powerful proof of the investment-friendly policies, legal safeguards, and local skilled workforce,” Meng said.

“The Cambodian government’s pro-business policies, including tax holidays of up to nine years and benefits throughout special economic zones, are all tailored to meet specific investment needs.

Cambodia’s reputation as being open and pro-business provides assurance of lasting business success,” Meng added.

Meanwhile, MBCC President Oknha Tan Khee Meng shared insightful perspectives on ‘Success Stories of Malaysian Investments in Cambodia during the forum,’ offering valuable lessons and best practices for aspiring investors.

The Malaysian business presence in Cambodia has grown tremendously over the past three decades, and MBCC, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, is proud to be part of this legacy, he said.

“Many Malaysian companies have expanded their operations in Cambodia by an impressive growth of 10 to 20 times their original size over the past three decades,” he said.

“This growth wasn’t just a stroke of luck. It was the result of Cambodia’s welcoming business environment, fostered by the government’s open policies and commitment to fairness for all investors,” he added.

On the sidelines of the forum, the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), between the MBCC and the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia.

The forum also featured enriching discussions and insights into fostering closer economic collaboration.

Key highlights included a panel discussion featuring Jacob Lee, Vice President of FMM and Managing Director of Asli Mechanical Sdn Bhd; Lor Tithchan Sopheak, Advisor of the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC); S. Jai Shankar, Director and Sustainability Lead of MATRADE; and Lim Socheat, Vice President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Laksmi Prime Investment Co Ltd.

Neak Oknha Kith Meng, (L) President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) and Oknha Tan Khee Meng, President of the Malaysia Business Chamber of Cambodia (MBCC), during the Cambodia-Malaysia Business Forum 2024
yesterday. KT/Pann Rachana

The four distinguished heads discussed strategies for bolstering trade and investment flows between the two countries.

The forum culminated with a networking gala dinner, offering attendees a platform to forge valuable connections, explore potential partnerships, and solidify business relationships in a convivial setting.

After receiving independence from Britain on August 31, 1957, Malaysia established a diplomatic relationship with Cambodia, which had just been freed of French colonialism three years earlier.

Between 1969 and 1975, Malaysia had a diplomatic presence in Cambodia at the level of charge d’affaires, with its Ambassador in Beijing concurrently accredited to Phnom Penh.

The Embassy of Malaysia was closed in 1979 following the civil war in the Kingdom and was reopened on November 26, 1991, after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on October 23, 1991. In fact, Malaysian businessmen were among the first to come to conduct business in Cambodia after the Kingdom regained peace.

With a long history of diplomatic ties between Cambodia and Malaysia, the vigorous activities and initiatives driven by the two Southeast Asian countries’ governments, people, and business communities in recent years have proven that their relations are now at an all-time high.

In addition to signing a number of agreements of cooperation and the exchange of visits between Cambodian and Malaysian government leaders, the strong trade and investment relations between the two countries are evident from the fact that Malaysia remains the 16th-largest trading partner of the Kingdom from 2020 to 2022, in addition to their last year’s historical trade volume.

According to the MBCC, the nurturing ground provided by the Cambodian government over the years has enabled Malaysian investments to soar, with cumulative figures reaching over $3.2 billion by the end of 2022. Khmertimeskh

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