British Trade Minister Sees Opportunities in Cambodia

British Minister of State for Trade and Investment Stephen Green said Monday that British businesses had not paid enough attention to the Asean region, in particular to Cambodia, and he hoped to see that change.

Beginning a two-week visit to Southeast Asia in Phnom Penh, Mr. Green said that due to the ongoing global economic crisis, growth among the U.K.’s traditional European trade partners is low, whereas large-scale opportunities exist in the fast-growing countries of Asia, which are now driving the world’s economy.

“Three British government ministers have visited Cambodia in the past 12 months, which shows our commitment to strengthening our relationship,” he said, adding that a new U.K. Trade and Investment office in the British Embassy opened in January.

British Ambassador Mark Gooding said that trade between the U.K. and Cambodia reached $750 million in 2012 and continues to grow: “It is up 24 percent already in the first quarter of this year, compared to 2012,” he said.

The U.K.’s major exports to Cambodia in 2012 were vehicles, textile yarn and fabric, machinery, and medical and pharmaceutical products, while major imports from Cambodia are garments, footwear, sugar and cereal.

Mr. Green praised British companies in Cambodia for engaging in overall development and assisting local communities, and also acknowledged that significant challenges remain.

“Cambodia is still terribly dependent on the low cost labor structure supported by the garment sector, but this isn’t sustainable so Cambodia must plan to expand its range of industries,” Mr. Green said, adding that inward investment and an energy deficit were also significant problems.

Mr. Green, who was chairman of HSBC when it was embroiled in a criminal money-laundering scandal in 2012 that cost the bank $1.9 billion in fines, also launched the British Alumni Association of Cambodia for Cambodian students who have studied in the U.K.

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