The rising flood of imported products, especially those from China and Vietnam, is threatening local industries, which are unable to compete with the high quality and low prices of neighboring countries, members of the business community said Sunday.
“We are going to close step by step,” said Mong Reththy, head of the Mong Reththy Group, whose wavering palm oil plantation in Sihanoukville has cost more than $10 million since 1996.
Since China joined the World Trade Organization, it has stepped up its exports, many of which are finding their way to local markets. Vietnam has normalized trade with the US and continues to develop a free-market economy.
If Cambodia is to develop, it must learn to fight by the rules of today’s global economic environment, businessmen said.
“If we are too weak to fight someone, of course they will fight us,” said Kong Triv, vice president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce. “We have to think how to fight them back.”
Hin Sopheap, vice rector of Asean University, said the flow of foreign goods into domestic markets will have an adverse effect on local producers. The high quality and lower prices of imports continues to be a problem, because Cambodia’s industries are young and defenseless, he said.
“We make almost nothing that will compete with [these] imported goods,” Hin Sopheap said. The government must put its efforts into bolstering the capabilities of small and mid-size businesses if Cambodia is to prosper, he said. “Our [small and mid-size enterprises] are still practicing the traditional style.”
He compared Cambodia’s economy to a who had grown up malnourished.
And while that may be true, in the long run, there is hope. Because the very things that have made Cambodia awash with imports will eventually propel the country’s economy as well, said Hul Lim, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Industry.
With systems such as Asean, the WTO and the Asean Free Trade Area in place, Cambodia must accept itself as part of a competitive team: Southeast Asia.
“We will meet a difficult situation at first,” he said, “but we will have better knowledge of the global…economy.”
For Kong Triv, the amount of imported goods is just a fact of life in today’s global economy.
“We cannot stop them from importing: It is a free-market policy,” he said. “We are happy to see fair trading competition. This is what the current worldwide economy does.”