Thursday, September 3, 2020
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Thank you everyone for coming, and especially the American Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia for hosting this event. It has been a while since I’ve seen many of you and it’s great to see familiar faces in the crowd including friends from the Royal Government.
I would like to acknowledge the presence of the honored guests:
- H.E. Pan Sorasak from the Ministry of Commerce
- Her Excellency Cham Nimul, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce;
- Allen Tan, President, AmCham Cambodia;
- Travis Mitchell, Executive Director, AmCham Cambodia.
Throughout 2020, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary since the establishment of U.S.-Cambodia diplomatic ties, highlighting the full range of our relationship. This September, we showcase our growing economic ties during Trade & Investment Month. If you look at how quickly these ties have grown – it’s remarkable. Only 20 years ago, bilateral trade stood at $850 million. Last year alone it reached $5.9 billion – a seven-fold increase.
Trade, particularly access to the U.S. market, has benefitted Cambodia greatly over the years. The United States is Cambodia’s largest export destination; $5.4 billion worth of goods were exported from Cambodia to the United States in 2019. And, despite the current pandemic, exports are up 23 percent in 2020.
These exports support tens-of-thousands of Cambodian jobs: from factory workers in Sihanoukville and Bavet to farmers in Battambang and Kampong Cham, to IT professionals in Phnom Penh. These exports have played a major part in Cambodia’s tremendous economic growth.
Cambodian exports also benefit U.S. consumers by providing choice. There are now more Cambodian products in U.S. stores than ever before. These include not only garments and footwear, but also award-winning agricultural products like Kampot pepper and Cambodian rice. In addition, you can find more and more Cambodian-made travel goods in the United States.
As the Minister knows well, travel goods are a remarkable story. After the U.S. granted duty free access to travel goods in 2016 under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, travel goods exports from Cambodia increased from $50 million to nearly $1 billion last year.
While we welcome Cambodia’s success, it is also important to note that today’s trade relationship is not balanced. U.S. exports to the Kingdom stood only at $514 million in 2019. Given Cambodia’s economic progress, and Cambodians preference for high quality U.S. brands, that number can be much higher. I look forward to working with the Minister to encourage Cambodians to buy more U.S. products and services. This will help ensure that our trading relationship is free, fair, and mutually beneficial.
While trade is an important part of our economic relationship, investment plays a major role as well. If you tour Phnom Penh today you will see an increasing number of U.S. companies, from hotels and retail stores to restaurants and, further afield, factories. You can find large multinationals, such as: Chevron, Starbucks, and Marriott; as well as lesser-known brands like Aprati Foods, Montana Fly Company, and AHF Products. Not only do these American companies create jobs, but they also bring adherence to the rule of law, transparency, high labor and environmental standards, and anti-corruption practices.
Apart from these values, U.S. companies also give back to the communities in which they do business, particularly with innovative corporate social responsibility programs. There are multiple examples across Cambodia today. Coca-Cola’s Aqua Tower project is providing clean drinking water to over 70,000 Cambodians; the GE Foundation, through its Safe Surgery program, is helping strengthen Cambodia’s health system; and finally the Ford Motor Company, with local partner RMA, is supporting training and development for Cambodian auto technicians.
Both the values and programs U.S. companies bring with them when they invest are why I refer to them as the gold standard of foreign investment. We would all like to see more U.S. investment in Cambodia. To be able to entice more companies to come and invest, however, they will need to see clear rules and a level playing field.
The United States currently has several tools available to help those interested in trade and investment across the Indo-Pacific. These include $60 billion in financing to support private sector investment from the new Development Finance Corporation (DFC); its predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)has invested over $150 million in Cambodia so far. The Infrastructure Transaction Advisory Network (ITAN) helps develop high quality infrastructure and we are now exploring ways for ITAN to support the Kingdom’s development.
These tools may help unleash new investment in Cambodia. But investment, like trade, can go both ways. Given the strength of Cambodia’s economy, the sophistication of its companies, the time is right to promote Cambodian investment in the United States. To further this goal, I hope to lead a delegation of Cambodian businesses to the United States to explore investment opportunities there. Cambodian businesses creating jobs in America is a terrific way to strengthen ties.
I know I’ve said a lot this evening. The key takeaway is that the Embassy is committed to deepening our economic relationship – both now and in the future. To achieve this, we need to work closely with all of you – both the private sector and the government – to make that happen. I am confident and hopeful that we will. Enjoy your evening.