The European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) held its first annual general meeting Thursday at the Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh where a board of directors was elected and the French and German chambers merged with EuroCham in order to reinforce the interests of European companies in Cambodia.
EuroCham Cambodia was inaugurated in June 2011 with the support of the three founding bodies: the Chambre de Commerce Franco-Cambodgienne, the British Business Association in Cambodia and Arbeitskreis Deutsche Wirtschaft.
However, echoing Britain’s increasingly stand-apart relationship with the European Union, the British chamber voted against merging into EuroCham, though its members are still free to do so on an individual basis.
“The British did not buy the idea of a merger so it will remain independent,” said Dominic Catry, who was one of seven founding members of the French Chamber in 1998, and was the host of Thursday’s meeting.
Mr. Catry added that the Dutch and Belgian chambers of commerce are also likely to merge with EuroCham in the near future.
The main objective of EuroCham is to create a better relationship between the government and European firms, an area in which Mr. Catry said the chamber could do much better.
“We should in the future be able to better mobilize our members to be effective and to do more,” he said, adding that a number of internal committees would develop recommendations for improvements and work toward producing EuroCham’s White Book, which will summarize for the Cambodian government the key issues affecting the business climate for European businesses in Cambodia.
“Advocacy is the most important function of EuroCham,” said David Haskel, who is legal counsel to Phnom Penh-based law firm BNG Legal and was one of the candidates for Thursday’s election.
Darren Harris, chief operations officer of Innov8, a training and consultancy firm, said one big benefit of EuroCham for businesses operating in Cambodia was the preferential access to business opportunities it afforded members.
“It’s not nepotism, but foreign businesses in Cambodia are like an expat community and EuroCham operates in a sort of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours way,’” he said.
During Thursday’s annual meeting, 114 members cast votes, electing as board members Marina Pok, an entrepreneur and former under secretary of state for foreign affairs, and Youdy Bun, who runs Bun & Associates law firm.
Foreigners elected to the chamber included Mr. Catry, who was elected to the board with 88 votes alongside compatriot Emmanuel Menanteau, CEO of Cambodia Airports. David Parrot from ANZ Royal, Alexandra Herbel of TUV Rhineland and Martin Desautels from DFDL Legal and Tax Services were also elected to the board.