Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Opening Ceremony of the EXBS Strategic Trade Control Awareness Seminar

Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh
December 3, 2015

H.E. Chhuon Chanthan, Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and welcome to the inaugural U.S. – Cambodia Strategic Trade Control Awareness Seminar, sponsored by the United States Embassy here in Phnom Penh. It is an honor for me to be here with you this morning, in my first public event since I presented my credentials to the Acting Head of State yesterday morning.

I’m very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you briefly about how Cambodia stands to benefit—in terms of its economy and its security—by developing a robust strategic trade control regime.

I think many of you know that I recently returned to Cambodia after a 15 year absence. Since I returned, I have been incredibly impressed by the progress Cambodia has made in the social, health, and economic areas. Cambodia’s 20 years of seven-percent economic growth constitute a powerful achievement. Today, Cambodia stands poised to join the ranks of the world’s lower-middle income countries.

But high economic growth also means more imports and exports, and visitors, cross the Kingdom’s borders every year. This trend will accelerate as Cambodia’s economy integrates with the region under the ASEAN Economic Community. As more international companies trade and invest here, Cambodia will benefit even more from developing a world class regulatory architecture for trade.

Strategic trade controls are a critical part of international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They promote global security and stability and facilitate economic development by focusing government resources on illicit or suspicious transactions. They strengthen investor confidence by simplifying technology transfer between responsible traders. They also foster partnerships among government and industry participants in international supply chains.

The Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program – or “EXBS,” for short – which is sponsoring this conference, is the U.S. Government’s premier initiative to support other countries’ efforts to meet their obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.

This resolution calls upon countries to build effective national strategic trade control systems. Such systems should include the capacity to enforce strategic trade controls at their borders, which is why we are joined by representatives from Cambodian customs today. EXBS is working with more than 60 countries to strengthen national capabilities to detect and prevent transfers of munitions and dual-use items, and to keep these dangerous weapons out of the hands of terrorists and those who would do harm.

Public outreach is essential to increase awareness of proliferation threats. Conferences like this one are opportunities for you to build and sustain a community of policymakers and technical experts committed to implementing effective strategic trade control systems that meet international requirements as Cambodia’s economy develops.

I hope you will enjoy hearing firsthand from regulators in neighboring countries who are with us here today to share how they developed and sustain strategic trade controls.

Together we can combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and prevent illicit transfers of conventional weapons. Together, we can keep safe the planet we all call home. I wish you a fruitful conference.

Som Ohkun.